Explosions, gunfire erupt at Kenyan hotel in possible terror attack

Explosions, gunfire erupt at Kenyan hotel in possible terror attack

Extremists launched a deadly attack on a luxury hotel in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the complex.

"There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire", whispered another man working at the compound, asking not to be named.

Al-Shabab - the Somalia-based extremist group that carried out the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead - claimed responsibility for the attack. Many told Reuters that they had to leave colleagues behind, still huddled under their desks. But he did not comment on the attackers' whereabouts and said security forces were still "mopping up".

Hotel cleaner Enoch Kibet, who escaped by crawling out of a gate in the basement, said: "People were screaming". A grenade was seen in a hallway.

The attack at the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, restaurant and office buildings housing local and worldwide companies, began at 3 pm (1200 GMT) with a massive explosion heard five kilometres (three miles) away at the AFP bureau.

Al Shabaab, which wants to overthrow the weak, UN-backed Somali government and impose strict Islamic law, quickly said it was responsible.

Images from the scene showed injured people running from the buildings.

A police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media said bodies were seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs, but "there was no time to count the dead".

Kenya's Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet has referred to the incident as a "suspected terror attack" adding that armed militants may still be inside the building and that the operation is ongoing. He did not give details.

Flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the compound's auto park where several vehicles were on fire, and scores of people fled the scene, some of them injured. So I went to our offices, I hid myself in the fridge.

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Police say they have detonated a auto they said had explosives inside and officers have moved away from other vehicles they suspect of having explosives. "I didn't see an attacker".

Members of security forces are seen at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya January 15, 2019.

Elite police forces evacuated terrified workers barricaded in offices after an hour of sustained gunfire as they engaged the attackers. A large group of women was rushed out by security forces, one woman still in hair curlers.

Somalia's Government has expressed its "strong condemnation" of the deadly attack, saying it "once again reveals the disgusting face of terrorism".

A witness told the AP he saw at least two bodies at the scene of the attack.

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.

Tuesday's violence also came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people. Plainclothes police are going from shop to shop to clear out trapped civilians who are running away from the complex.

Other people appeared to be taking cover behind fountains and other features in the lush outdoor complex.

The Garissa attack occurred a little in April 2015, 365km northeast of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and resulted in the loss of 148 lives including 142 students.

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