Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for an attack on a luxury hotel complex in Kenya’s capital and says fighters are still inside.
Witnesses and police at the scene in Nairobi called it the latest terror attack in a country that has seen several deadly ones in recent years.
The complex in Nairobi’s Westlands neighbourhood includes a large hotel known as DusitD2, banks and offices. People have been rushed and carried from the scene, including someone on a stretcher.
“It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible. I have seen a human as I ran out and there is what looks like minced meat all over,” said one a man who said he ran from the scene, Charles Njenga.
“I have been hiding. My colleagues were running everywhere,” said another man. He said he hid in an office. “I didn’t see an attacker. It was a terrorist attack. I think so.”
Gunfire continued several minutes after the first reports. Black smoke rose from the scene. A bomb disposal unit was on the scene and vehicles were being cordoned off for fear that they contained explosives. An unexploded grenade was seen in a hallway of the complex.
“We have sent officers to the scene, including from the anti-terrorism unit, but so far we have no more information,” police spokesman Charles Owino said.
The National Police specialised units are on site at 14 Riverside Drive to engage the attackers. Please utilise this channel for all official information and refrain from re-tweeting unconfirmed news.— National Police Service-Kenya (@NPSOfficial_KE) January 15, 2019
Ambulances, security forces and firefighters rushed to the scene. A large group of women were hurried out by security forces, one woman still in hair curlers. Other groups of dozens of people were hurried away as plainclothes officers went shop to shop in the complex. Some held up their hands to show they were unarmed.
What appeared to be plainclothes security forces inched their way toward the scene with guns. Helicopters could be heard. Other people appeared to be taking cover behind fountains and other features in the lush outdoor complex.
The attack immediately reminded many Kenyans of the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi in 2013, when al-Shabab extremists burst into the luxury shopping centre, hurling grenades and starting a days-long siege that left 67 people dead.
The complex under attack is less than 2 miles from Westgate Mall and is in what is considered one of the most secure areas of the city.
The attack came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab objects to the presence of Kenyan troops in the turbulent Horn of Africa nation.