More people rescued from site of terror attack in Kenyan capital; 15 reported killed (UPDATED)
06:50 (GMT+4) More people were evacuated early Wednesday from the site of a terror attack at an upmarket hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, following fresh blasts and gunshots, several hours after officials said that the situation was under control.
Live broadcast by local NTV station showed one of the evacuees saying people holed up in places like toilets for hours before police came to their rescue.
Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Fred Matiang'i said late Tuesday that security teams have evacuated scores of Kenyans and other nationalities from the buildings after a nine-hour operation.
"We are now in the final stages of mopping up the area and securing evidence and documenting the consequences of this unfortunate event," he told journalists.
"I can now report that the country is now secure and that the nation remains calm, that Kenyans and all our visitors are now safe," he added.
The DusitD2 complex, which houses several multi-national offices and a hotel, is located in the leafy Riverside area of Westlands, Nairobi.
About four gunmen armed with rifles and grenades drove to the 14 Riverside Drive at around 3 p.m. local time and staged a deadly attack, leaving a trail of destruction.
"We have secured all the buildings that had been affected. The situation is under control and the country is safe. Terrorism will never defeat us. We will not surrender or bend," Matiang'i said.
He did not say how many people were killed or injured in the attack, but there were reports that 15 people were killed. The U.S. State Department has confirmed that one of the victims was an American citizen.
Joseph Boinnet, Inspector General of Police, said earlier that the terrorists began their onslaught by setting ablaze three vehicles at the I&M Bank parking lot before moving to the Dusit D2 complex.
At the entrance of the hotel, Boinnet said the assailants carried out a suicide explosion, injuring several people.
"This criminal activity commenced at about 3 o'clock in a coordinated fashion that began with an attack at I&M Bank with an explosion that targeted three vehicles on the parking lot and suicide explosion in the foyer at Dusit hotel where a number of guests suffered severe injuries," said Boinnet.
He said a multi-agency special security team had made progress to regain control of the hotel where the gunmen are holed up.
"Owing to swift and targeted response by our security agencies, the situation has been largely contained and six out of the seven floors of the hotel building have been secured," said Boinnet.
Al-Shabab, a Somalia-based terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.
04:01 (GMT+4) Gunmen blasted their way into a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and sending workers diving under desks from an attack claimed by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab, Trend reported citing Reuters.
Eight hours after the assault began at Nairobi’s upscale 14 Riverside Drive complex, a burst of gunfire was heard in the area, suggesting the situation was not yet under control.
Scores of people were still hiding inside the complex, a security source said. A mortuary worker told Reuters around midnight (2100 GMT) that 14 people were killed in the attack.
Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i had said at 11 p.m. that all buildings had been secured and scores of people evacuated from the scene. But he did not comment on the attackers’ whereabouts and said security forces were still “mopping up”. An hour after he spoke, the gunfire rang out. The power in the hotel was out, a Reuters journalist at the scene said.
Nairobi is a major expatriate hub, and the compound targeted contained offices of various international companies, in an echo of a deadly 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping center in the same neighborhood.
“The main door of the hotel was blown open and there was a human arm in the street severed from the shoulder,” said Serge Medic, the Swiss owner of a security company who ran to the scene to help when he heard of the attack from his taxi driver.
Medic, who was armed, entered the building with a policeman and two soldiers, he said, but they came under fire and retreated. An unexploded grenade lay in the lobby, he said.
“One man said he saw two armed men with scarves on their head and bandoliers of bullets,” Medic told Reuters, as gunfire echoed in the background.
Kenya has often been targeted by al Shabaab, who killed 67 people at the Westgate shopping center in 2013 and nearly 150 students at Garissa university in 2015. Al Shabaab says its attacks are revenge for Kenyan troops stationed inside Somalia, which has been riven by civil war since 1991.
More than six hours after Tuesday’s attack began, many office workers were still holed up inside the complex as officers escorted small groups to safety, some with their hands in their air. Foreign security advisors at the site scrambled to make sure their clients were safe.
21:54 (GMT+4) Police and counter terrorist forces are still fighting on Tuesday evening to regain control of a hotel and office complex in the center of Nairobi following an attack at the place, Trend reported citing Xinhua.
Inspector-general Joseph Boinnet said the police were still battling the terrorists on Tuesday evening, and had not confirmed the number of those killed, injured or rescued from the scene.
"We are aware that the armed criminals are holding up in the hotel and specialists' forces are currently flashing them out," he said.
A helicopter has been seen flying low at the scene and some Kenyan hospitals are appealing for blood donations.
Foreign embassies in Kenya issued security alerts to their citizens following the terrorist attack, for which Somali militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility.