Somali militants claim attack on Nairobi hotel

Above: TV footage shows people fleeing the scene amid a gunfight following a blast at the hotel and office complex in Nairobi. Left: People being evacuated from the hotel compound where explosions and gunshots were heard.
TV footage shows people fleeing the scene amid a gunfight following a blast at the hotel and office complex in Nairobi.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Above: TV footage shows people fleeing the scene amid a gunfight following a blast at the hotel and office complex in Nairobi. Left: People being evacuated from the hotel compound where explosions and gunshots were heard.
People being evacuated from the hotel compound where explosions and gunshots were heard.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

NAIROBI (Kenya) • Explosions and gunfire rocked an upscale hotel in Kenya's capital Nairobi yesterday, in a terrorist attack that sent people fleeing into the streets and left body parts on the ground.

The Somali militant group Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, told several Western media organisations that it was behind the attack, describing it as "ongoing".

"We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operation is going on. We shall give details later," the group's military operations spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab told news agency Reuters.

Kenya police chief Joseph Boinnet confirmed it was a suspected militant attack.

There could still be armed assailants in the building and the police operation was ongoing, he told reporters in a short briefing.

Smoke from burning cars rose in the air outside the DusitD2 hotel and office park in Riverside Drive in Nairobi's Westlands neighbourhood. The complex includes a 101-room hotel, restaurant and several office buildings housing local and international companies.

The building was surrounded by heavily armed police and ambulances as wounded people were carried out on stretchers.

"There's a grenade in the bathroom," an officer yelled as police rushed out from one building.

A picture of the grounds on Twitter showed what appeared to be a human leg on the ground.

Police on the scene said there might still be hostages in the building, which has been cordoned off.

"We have to go for the highest incident that could take place. The highest incident we have is a terror (attack)," police spokesman Charles Owino told Citizen Television. Violent robberies are also common in Kenya.

Ms Yvonne Nkirote, who works at the Red House communications firm, said she had stopped by the Amadiva nail salon when there was a massive explosion.

"I saw body parts and blood on the ground right outside," she said as she was escorted out of the complex by police. There, she was reunited with several work colleagues, and they burst into tears upon finding one another safe.

Everywhere outside the hotel were wounded people, and there were pools of blood on the ground.

"I am in 14 Riverside Drive hiding in a bathroom and we are under attack," tweeted one man who described himself as being on the scene of the attack.

"There was a massive bomb blast then gunshots..."

Kenya has been repeatedly attacked by fighters from the militant Al-Shabaab movement based in neighbouring Somalia, most dramatically in 2013 in an attack on the Westgate mall that killed 71 people, as well as nearly 150 students at a university in 2015.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'Somali militants claim attack on Nairobi hotel'. Print Edition | Subscribe