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Al-Shabab Claims Nairobi Hotel Attack, At Least 15 Killed

Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, setting off explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables.

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Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Kenya's capital on Tuesday, 15 January, setting off thunderous explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables in an attack claimed by Africa's deadliest Islamic militant group. A police officer said at least 15 people had died.

"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 neighborhood with many American, European and Indian expatriates. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters. The US State Department confirmed that an American citizen was among those killed, but did not release the victim's identity.

Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, setting off explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables.
Bodies are seen in a restaurant at the site of the attack.
(Photo: AP)
Al-Shabab asserted that 47 people were killed but its Shahada news agency post gave no details.  
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Authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen. Late on Tuesday night, about eight hours after the siege began, Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i said all of the buildings affected 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.”
Fred Matiang’i, Interior Minister, Kenya

However, more gunfire was heard about an hour later, Kenyan broadcaster NTV reported. Some family members said they had been in touch with loved ones still hiding inside the complex, waiting to be rescued.

Early on Wednesday, 16 January, Kenya's Interior Ministry said in a tweet that all buildings had been secured and there was no further threat to the public.

"To God be the Glory. We have been rescued. Over 50 people in my group. No injuries Thank you all for the support and prayers. Thanks You KDF," tweeted a Kenyan businesswoman, Aggie Asiimwe Konde. KDF stands for the Kenya Defense Forces.

Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, setting off explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables.
Security forces help rescue civilians.
(Photo: AP)
Authorities did not say how many attackers there were – or what happened to them –though Kenya’s Citizen TV aired security-camera footage that showed at least four heavily-armed men in dark-coloured, paramilitary-style gear.  

‘No Time to Count the Dead’

A police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media 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.”
Witness
Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, setting off explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables.
In this grab taken from security camera footage released to the local media, heavily armed attackers walk in the compound of the hotel.
(Photo: AP)

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 slumped on tables.

"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.”
Hotel Staff
Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, setting off explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables.
Kenyan security forces take position outside the attacked complex.
(Photo: AP)

Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear.

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Retribution Against Troop Deployment?

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it since 2011.

Tuesday’s violence came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.
Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, setting off explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables.
An unidentified member of foreign security forces discusses with Kenyan security forces before entering to clear a building.
(Photo: AP)

The al-Qaeda-linked group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya. In the deadliest attack, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an assault on Kenya's Garissa University in 2015 that killed 147 people, mostly students.

The latest carnage demonstrated al-Shabab's continued ability to carry out spectacular acts of bloodshed despite a dramatic increase in US airstrikes against it under President Donald Trump.

Tourism – an important source of revenue in Kenya, East Africa's largest economy – has suffered because of the violence.

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