Nairobi terror attack: police regain control of hotel complex from gunmen

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Militant Islamist organisation al-Shabaab claims responsibility for armed assault

Police and anti-terrorist forces have regained control of a Nairobi hotel and office complex, hours after it was attacked by Islamist extremist gunmen.

The assault on the dusitD2 compound in the Kenyan capital, which includes a luxury hotel, restaurants, a spa and several office buildings housing international companies, was the most outrageous by terrorists in the country for many years.

Sustained automatic gunfire and grenade explosions were heard as the gunmen rushed in and scores of people fled the scene.

There were reports that at least seven people had been killed and one suspect detained. At least 10 more were wounded, with local hospitals asking for blood donations. The death toll was expected to rise.

On Tuesday evening, the interior minister, Fred Matiang’i, said security forces had secured all of the buildings affected.

“The security teams have evacuated scores of Kenyans and [people of] other nationalities from the buildings,” he said in a brief televised statement. “We are now in the final stages of mopping up the area and securing evidence and documenting the consequences of this unfortunate event.”

The attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist organisation based in neighbouring Somalia, on its in-house radio network and online. Al-Shabaab was responsible for an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 that left at least 67 people dead.

The alarm was raised at about 3pm on Tuesday when gunfire and explosions were heard at the hotel, in the upscale Westlands neighbourhood of the city. Dozens of ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines arrived at the scene as fleeing office workers filled the surrounding streets.

Witnesses said two cars had been driven at speed towards the hotel complex at about 3pm. One appeared to have been used to blast open its gates. Security personnel came under fire before gunmen entered the complex, initially targeting a bank and diners at a Thai restaurant.

Survivors reported hearing a shattering blast and saw people mown down by gunmen as they sat at 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 cafe 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.”

Tuesday’s attack came exactly three years after a deadly al-Shabaab attack on a Kenyan military base in El-Adde in Somalia, in which about 140 Kenya soldiers were killed.

“Al-Shabaab mujahideen snipers are in operation in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Our reports confirm that mujahideen fighters stormed the target building,” the al-Shabaab statement said.

Witnesses reported that the attackers were wearing military fatigues and wrapped in ammunition when they ran into the hotel.