Kenya Hunts Gunmen in Fatal Hotel Attack Claimed by Al-Qaeda

By Bloomberg 16 January 2019
epaselect epa07287451 Women are evacuated out of the scene as security officers search for attackers during an ongoing gunfire and explosions in Nairobi, Kenya, 15 January 2019. According to reports, a large explosion and sustained gunfire sent workers fleeing for their lives at an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. EPA-EFE/DAI KUROKAWA

Kenyan forces hunted for gunmen who stormed an upmarket hotel and office complex in the capital, reportedly killing at least six people in the first apparent major attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate in the East African nation in almost four years.

The attack on 14 Riverside Drive in Nairobi began with an explosion targeting three vehicles in the parking lot and then a suicide-bombing in the foyer of a Dusit Hotels & Resorts Co. outlet, police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet said Tuesday in a televised briefing.

“We have secured all the buildings that had been affected by these events,” Interior Secretary Fred Matiang’i said in a separate briefing. “We are now in the final stages of mopping up the area and securing evidence and documenting the consequences of these unfortunate events.’’

He didn’t say what had happened to the attackers, whom he described as “suspected terrorist elements,” nor give a death toll.

Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda based in neighboring Somalia, said it killed 47 people in the attack, according to Radio Andalus, a broadcaster that supports its insurgency. The group didn’t say how it obtained the figure, but if its involvement was confirmed it would be the Islamists’ first significant assault in Kenya since a raid on a university campus in Garissa county in April 2015 that killed at least 147 people.

The group has vowed to keep attacking Kenya as long as it maintains soldiers in Somalia, where it’s part of an African Union mission. A survivor of the attack who gave his name as Reuben told local Citizen TV that he heard the gunmen accuse Kenya of killing “our people in Somalia” and “ruining our way of life.”

The Nation, a Nairobi-based newspaper, reported that five people were killed at a restaurant in the complex and another person succumbed to their injuries at the hospital. Earlier television footage showed vehicles on fire near the entrance to the complex and police officers evacuating people from the scene.

CCTV footage aired on Citizen TV and dated at 3:32 p.m. showed four gunmen in black entering the compound and shooting.

The 14 Riverside complex, located on the outskirts of Nairobi’s center and popular with business travelers and Kenya’s elite, hosts restaurants, banking facilities and offices for companies including LG Electronics Africa, Pernod Ricard SA and Dow Chemicals East Africa Ltd. The country, which has East Africa’s largest economy, is a regional hub for international commerce.

Tuesday’s incident evokes memories of a raid by al-Shabaab on an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall in September 2013 in which at least 67 people died. On Monday, a Kenyan court ordered three suspects to be tried for their involvement in the attack, the Standard newspaper reported.

Al-Shabaab has been fighting in civil war-torn Somalia since about 2006 in a bid to impose its version of Islamic law. For a time it controlled the capital, Mogadishu, until it was ousted by Somali and African Union forces in 2011.

Targeted by intensified U.S. airstrikes in the past two years, al-Shabaab still regularly attacks Somali government facilities and civilians. Members also carried out bombings in Uganda in 2010 and Djibouti in 2014.

Tuesday marks the third anniversary of an al-Shabaab attack on an African Union base in Somalia in which the extremists said dozens of Kenyan soldiers were killed. Kenya’s government has never said how many people died. DM



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