Gunmen have stormed an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital, setting off loud blasts and sending people fleeing for their lives following a coordinated assault claimed by the Somalia-based al-Shabab armed group.
More than 12 hours after Tuesday’s attack began at Nairobi’s Dusit hotel complex, which also includes bars, restaurants, offices and banks, bursts of gunfire and explosions were still heard in the area despite earlier government assurances that everything was under control.
The shots rang out at around 3:30am local time (00:30 GMT) as a group of around 150 workers was escorted from a building where they had sought refuge. Many more remained inside and some needed first aid for gunshot wounds, a first responder told Reuters news agency.
Kenya’s Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i had said at 11pm that all buildings at the scene had been secured and scores of people evacuated. But he did not comment on the attackers’ whereabouts and said security forces were still “mopping up”.
By 1am local time, 15 bodies had arrived at Chiromo Mortuary and more were expected, an attendant told Reuters news agency. Identification papers indicated that 11 were Kenyan, one was from the United States and one from Britain, he said. The other two were not carrying documents.
A Kenyan police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was also quoted by The Associated Press news agency as saying that 15 bodies had been taken to the morgue.
The US State Department confirmed that a US citizen was among those killed, but did not release the identity of the victim.
Al-Shabab, which has been fighting the western-backed government in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying on Tuesday that it was in control of most parts of the building complex.
“Our fighters killed 47 enemies inside the complex. The mujahideen are still in control of most parts of the building complex,” Abdiaziz Abu Mus’ab, the group’s military operations spokesperson,
Authorities did not comment on the number of the attackers but Kenya’s Citizen TV aired security-camera footage that showed at least four heavily armed men in dark-coloured, paramilitary-style gear.
No casualty figures have been released by officials, but witnesses reported seeing several bodies.
A police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to reporters said bodies were seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs, but “there was no time to count the dead.”
A witness who gave his name only as Ken said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance. 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”, .