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World & Nation

Nairobi hotel hit by gunfire and explosions in attack claimed by Somali militants

Security forces are seen at the scene of a blast in Nairobi, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. An upscale hot
Security forces at the scene of the attack Jan. 15 in Nairobi, Kenya.
(Ben Curtis / Associated Press)
Washington Post

Explosions and gunfire rocked an upscale hotel in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday in a terrorist attack that sent people fleeing into the streets and left body parts on the ground.

The Somali militant group Shabab told several Western media organizations that it was behind the attack. “We are currently conducting an operation in Nairobi,” the group’s spokesman said to Al Jazeera.

Kenyan national Police Chief Joseph Boinnet said in a news conference that armed attackers remained inside the complex “in what we suspect could be a terror attack.” Police at the scene said there might still be hostages in the building, which was cordoned off.

There were no official tallies of dead or injured.

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Smoke from burning cars rose in the air outside the DusitD2 hotel and office park on Riverside Drive in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood. The building was surrounded by heavily armed police and ambulances as wounded people were carried out on stretchers.

Heavily armed police moved slowly through the complex evacuating stores as frightened civilians poured out of shops with their hands in the air.

Yvonne Nkirote, who works at the Red House communications firm, said she had stopped by the Amadiva nail salon when she heard a massive explosion.

“I saw body parts and blood on the ground right outside,” she told the Washington Post as she was escorted out of the complex by police. There she was reunited with several work colleagues, and they burst into tears upon finding each other safe.

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Another worker at the complex, Sandeep Sura, said he saw the attackers.

“I saw two very young guys with AK47s,” he said, adding that they were wearing all black.

Everywhere outside the hotel were wounded people and pools of blood.

“I am in 14 Riverside drive hiding in a bathroom and we are under attack,” tweeted one man who described himself as being at the scene of the blast. “There was a massive bombs blast then gunshots, please.”

The complex has five buildings, one of which is an upscale hotel popular for conferences and press briefings. The other buildings hold offices, including those of many multinational companies, including Visa and Shell. The complex is also a popular shopping destination.

Kenya has been repeatedly attacked by fighters from the militant Shabab movement based in neighboring Somalia, most dramatically for Nairobi in 2013 in an attack on the Westgate mall that killed 67 people. Four attackers also died.

In April 2015, nearly 150 people were killed and dozens more injured when Shabab militants stormed Garissa University in northeastern Kenya.

Witnesses at the time said that gunmen entered the university’s dormitories and opened fire, at times separating Christians and Muslims, then executing Christian students.

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The standoff lasted 16 hours, and four of the gunmen were eventually killed when they detonated suicide vests.

It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since a bombing at the U.S. Embassy in 1998 killed more than 200 people.

The attack also comes on the third anniversary of the El Adde attack, when 250 Kenyan soldiers serving in Somalia were wiped out by Shabab fighters.

Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.


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