Nairobi hotel attackers “eliminated”

314

Kenyan security forces “eliminated” militants who stormed an upscale hotel compound and killed at least 14 people in an attack claimed by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab, President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

More than 700 civilians were safely evacuated from the dusitD2 complex after an attack echoing a 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping centre that killed 67 people.

“The security operation at dusit complex is over and all terrorists eliminated. As of this moment, we confirm 14 innocent lives lost at the hands of these murderous terrorists,” Kenyatta said.

He did not specify how many assailants took part in the terrifying 20-hour siege. CCTV footage showed at least four.

“From the means available to the security services and judicial arms, we will continue taking every step to make our nation inhospitable to terrorist groups and their networks,” added Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father.

The east African nation is a hub for expatriates and is often targeted by al Shabaab in revenge for sending troops to help protect the UN-backed government in Somalia.

The attack on the dusitD2 hotel began shortly after 3 pm on Tuesday with an explosion in the parking lot and then a suicide bomb blast in the foyer, police said.

At least two groups of people were trapped inside as dawn broke and gunfire continued.

Eleven Kenyans, an American and a Briton were among the casualties, morgue staff said. Two victims were not identified.

Some victims were dining in the Secret Garden restaurant and lay slumped at tables, photos seen by Reuters showed.

INTERNATIONAL HUB

According to its website, the 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.

Kenya is a base for diplomats, aid workers, businessmen and others operating in the region.

Hiram Macharia, a marketing executive at LG Electronics, said officers rescued him and colleagues from their office two hours after the attack started.

One workmate did not survive.

“A colleague went to the top of the building and his body was found there,” he told Reuters.

Overnight blasts and shooting undercut assurances from the interior minister that the scene was secured and complicated the rescue of those trapped. Some sent out messages begging for medical help.

Families who went to Chiromo morgue were told they could not view bodies until a forensic investigation was performed, provoking grief and anger.

One man who gave his name as David said he was yet to hear from a relative in the complex whose phone went off at around 4 pm.

The family of a missing 35-year-old man collapsed in the courtyard on hearing a body arrived with his identification papers.

“He is gone, he is gone,” the father repeated into his phone as his mother wept.

Another family arrived demanding to see if a relative was there but were told only police had access.

As they argued, an elderly couple arrived in silence, bringing a freshly pressed suit to dress their dead son.

Outside the morgue Red Cross ambulances waited. They would go to the complex to retrieve casualties once it was safe, morgue staff said.