Terrorist group al-Shabab claims responsibility for bombing of Nairobi hotel
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Kenya's capital yesterday, setting off thunderous explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables in an attack claimed by Africa's deadliest Islamic militant group. Witnesses reported seeing several bodies.
“It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible,” said Charles Njenga, who ran from a scene of blood, broken glass, burning vehicles and pillars of black smoke.
Al-Shabab — the Somalia-based group that carried out the 2013 attack at the nearby Westgate Mall in Nairobi that left 67 people dead — claimed responsibility for the carnage at the DusitD2 hotel complex, which includes bars, restaurants, offices and banks and is in a well-to-do neighbourhood with many American, European and Indian expatriates.
Authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen believed holed up inside. Late last night, about eight hours after the siege began, Interior Minister Fred Matian'i said that all of the buildings affected by the attack had been secured and that security forces were mopping up.
“I would like to reiterate that the situation is under control and the country is safe,” he said.
However, more gunfire was heard about an hour later, Kenyan broadcaster NTV reported.
Matian'i did not disclose the number of dead and wounded. And authorities did not say how many attackers there were, though Kenya's Citizen TV aired what it said was surveillance footage that showed at least four gunmen.
A police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media said that bodies were seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs, but “there was no time to count the dead”.
Also, a witness who gave his name only as Ken said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance. He said that other people were shouting for help and “when we rushed back to try to rescue them, gunshots started coming from upstairs, and we had to duck because they were targeting us and we could see two guys shooting”.
The coordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests, said Kenya's national police chief, Joseph Boinnet.
Survivors reported hearing a shattering blast and saw people mowed down by gunmen as they sat in a cafe. Victims were left lying on tables, bleeding.
“We were changing our shifts, and that is when I heard a loud blast and people were screaming,” said Enoch Kibet, who works as a cleaner at the café and managed to crawl out a basement gate. “I couldn't believe I was alive. The blast was so loud and shook the whole complex.”
Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear.