Nairobi attack: hotel complex hit by gunfire and explosions
Police and anti-terrorist forces have been fighting to regain control of a hotel and office complex in the centre of Nairobi after it was seized by gunmen.
Witnesses in Nairobi said four armed men had rushed into the dusitD2 compound, which includes a hotel and several office buildings housing international companies, at about 3pm on Tuesday. Sustained automatic gunfire and grenade explosions were heard shortly afterwards, as scores of people fled the scene.
There were reports that at least three people had been killed and one suspect detained.
One man came out covered in blood as students were evacuated from a nearby university building. Four ambulances and a fire engine arrived at the scene as fleeing office workers told reporters their colleagues were still huddled under their desks. Hospitals were asking for blood donations.
The attack bore many of the hallmarks of a terrorist operation and was being described as a terrorist incident by police at the scene.
According to media reports, al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist organisation based in neighbouring Somalia, had already claimed responsibility. Al-Shabaab was responsible for an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 which left at least 67 people dead.
Tuesday’s attack came exactly three years after a deadly al-Shabaab attack on a Kenyan military base in El-Adde in Somalia, where about 140 Kenyasoldiers were killed.
Simon Crump, who works at one of the offices, said workers had barricaded themselves inside after several explosions. “We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” he told the AFP news agency, saying people were terrified.
Officials initially said the incident was a robbery, but admitted it could be terrorism. “All police teams have been dispatched to the scene where the incident is. As at now we are treating it as anything, including the highest attack,” the police spokesman Charles Owino said by phone. “All police teams including anti-terror officers are at the scene.”
Kenya faced a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight al-Shabaab, which is affiliated to al-Qaida.
On 2 April 2015, al-Shabaab killed 148 people at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya. Islamic State has a small presence in the Horn of Africa.