Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack at an upscale hotel complex in Kenya’s capital on Monday that left an unconfirmed number of people dead – as authorities continue to search buildings hours after the assault began.
The suspected terror attack at the complex in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood — which includes a large hotel known as DusitD2, banks and offices — began around 3 p.m. Tuesday with an explosion targeting three vehicles outside a bank. A suicide bomber then blew up in the hotel lobby as people rushed to safety or took shelter inside the buildings, Kenyan National Police said in a statement.
By 8:30 p.m., officials were still at the complex combing through buildings, freeing people and confronting possible attackers.
“We regret to confirm that at approximately 3 p.m. today [Tuesday], a group of armed assailants attacked the Dusit Complex in a suspected terror attack. Security and emergency teams immediately responded to the incident and have cordoned off the area. The situation is being managed and residents are being screened and evacuated from the area,” police said in a statement.
It’s unclear the number of casualties, but a Kenyan police officer who was among the first on the scene of the attack said: “There was no time to count the dead but it is true that there are people who are dead.”
The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some bodies were in restaurants downstairs and that colleagues saw others in offices upstairs scattered among broken glass and blood. A witness said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance alone — and there could be scores more dead.
He said that 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.”
Police said they were at the scene to “engage the attackers.” It’s unclear how many assailants took part in the assault.
“We are aware that armed criminals are holding up in the hotel and specialist forces are now currently flushing them out. However, we regret to inform that there have been injuries in the attack and we are in the process of confirming the numbers and types of injuries incurred,” police said. “We have been vigilant throughout the holiday season and therefore all public and other hotel premises remain under close watch. Reports from throughout the country indicate that everything remains calm and normal.”
Several people who worked in the buildings that were under attack told Reuters some of their colleagues were still inside hiding under desks.
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