Kenya hotel siege over, militants and at least 21 victims dead

Friday, 18 January 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


NAIROBI (Reuters): Kenyan security forces have killed all the Somali militants who stormed an upscale Nairobi hotel compound, taking at least 21 lives and forcing hundreds of people into terrifying escapes, the Government said on Wednesday.

Fifty people believed to have been in the complex remained unaccounted for on Wednesday afternoon, the Kenya Red Cross said, raising the possibility of a much higher final death toll.

The bloody bodies of five attackers were broadcasted across social media as President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the end of a 20-hour overnight siege which echoed a 2013 assault that killed 67 people in the Westgate shopping centre in the same district.

Somali group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting to impose strict Islamic law, said they carried out the attack in revenge for US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The security operation... is over and all the terrorists eliminated,” Kenyatta said in a televised national address, looking drained and grave.

Kenyatta did not specify how many assailants there were, but CCTV clips showed at least five dressed in black, some sporting green grenade belts.

One militant is seen in one clip waiting outside a restaurant before blowing himself up in a cloud of debris just after 3.00 p.m. (1200 GMT). Another explosion near the entrance gate, possibly a grenade, ignites three cars before four men stroll by firing assault rifles and split into two groups.

One group entered a nearby office building, where they left a grenade in the lobby, a private security professional present during the attack told Reuters. Then they shot into elevators and offices as they searched for victims up to the sixth floor.

The other group raked the restaurant with gunfire. Eventually, the militants were holed up on or near the top floor of the hotel, taking pot-shots at those fleeing, he said.

Sixteen Kenyans – including a policeman – an American 9/11 survivor, and a British development worker were among the casualties, police Chief Joseph Boinnet said. Three more victims were of African origin but their nationality was unknown, he added.

Some victims had been dining in the Secret Garden restaurant and lay slumped at blood-stained tables, video seen by Reuters showed.

In its two-page statement claiming responsibility, al-Shabaab said: “This operation... (was) a response to the witless remarks of US president, Donald Trump, and his declaration.”

Asked about the group’s claim, a White House National Security Council spokesman said in a statement: “This senseless act is a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat radical Islamist terrorism.”

Air strikes against the group have intensified under Trump, but Tuesday’s attack showed that the insurgents retain the ability to strike outside Somalia’s borders.

Neighbouring Kenya, a hub for multinationals and the United Nations, became a frequent target for al-Shabaab after Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 to try to create a buffer zone along its long, porous border.

The dusitD2 complex is home to offices of international companies including Colgate Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical and SAP, as well as the dusitD2 hotel, part of Thai group Dusit Thani.