Sat, 23 Feb 2019

Survivors of Nairobi hotel attack describe horror

News24
16 Jan 2019, 05:37 GMT+10

Survivors of the deadly attack on a Nairobi hotel complex describe a shattering explosion and the bodies of people shot to death while sitting at a cafe.

Enoch Kibet, who works as a cleaner there, says: "We were changing our shifts and that is when I heard a loud blast and people were screaming." She crawled out of a gate in the basement.

She says that "I couldn't believe I was alive. The blast was so loud and shook the whole complex."

A waitress who only gave her first name, Lily, trembled as she described the attackers shooting people at the Secret Garden cafe and people lying on tables bleeding. She says that "these are terrorists and they need to be stopped because there are many people in this complex."

A Somali diplomat says Somali officials were in a Nairobi hotel for meetings at the time it was attacked on Tuesday and several are feared to still be inside. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to reporters.

A Kenyan intelligence official says the country had been on high alert since November with information about potential attacks on high-profile targets in Nairobi, but the extremists confused security officials by changing target locations.

The official also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to reporters.

Inspector general of police Joseph Boinnet said ongoing operations to respond to a attack at the at Dusit Hotel has made progress in containing the situation and that six out of seven floors of the hotel have been secured.

He said the attacks happened in a coordinated fashion where three vehicles were targeted and a suicide bombing in the foyer of the hotel caused some guests to suffer severe injuries.

A Kenyan police officer who was among the first responders at the at Dusit Hotel attack says he saw bodies but 'no time to count the dead'.

An AFP photographer has seen more than one dead person the news agency tweeted.

Meanwhile, some Kenyan hospitals are appealing for blood donations as the number of people wounded in the attack remains unknown.

Although Uber Kenya has halted trip requests in the vicinity, it is offering free rides to hospitals where blood donations are being done.

Night has fallen and it is not immediately clear whether attackers are still active in the complex and how many people might be trapped or hiding inside.

The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab is claiming responsibility for the attack on an upscale hotel complex in Nairobi and says its members are still fighting inside.

Police say they have detonated a car they said had explosives inside and officers have moved away from other vehicles they suspect of having explosives. An unexploded grenade was also seen in a hallway at the complex.

As a car bomb smolders outside the gate, sporadic gunfire can be heard coming from the complex.

The al-Qaeda-linked group issued the claim via its radio arm, Andalus.

Police are aware that armed attackers could still be in the building but Kenyan security forces are in the process of "flushing" them out, Boinnet said.

He did not confirm any deaths and did not say how many were wounded.

There were initial reports of possibly two blasts and heavy gunfire.

Witnesses and police at the scene are calling it a terror attack.

Kenya's national police are on scene to engage the attackers.

The blast from the complex in Nairobi, which includes a large hotel known as DusitD2, banks and offices and house international companies, was heard from AFP's offices some five kilometres away.

Simon Crump, who works at one of the offices, said workers had barricaded themselves inside their offices after "several" explosions.

"We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions," he told AFP, adding that the people were terrified.

Several vehicles are burning and people are being rushed and carried from the scene. Police are in the process of confirming nature and types of injuries.

Police spokesperson Charles Owino earlier said that "we have sent officers to the scene, including from the anti-terrorism unit, but so far we have no more information".

An AFP reporter on the scene said the gunmen and security forces were exchanging gunfire.

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

"All police teams have been dispatched to the scene where the incident is. As at now we are treating it as anything, including the highest attack," police spokesperson Charles Owino said by phone.

"All police teams including anti-terror officers are at the scene," he said.

Ambulances, security forces and firefighters have rushed to the scene, sirens wailing. A large group of women have been hurried out by security forces, one woman still in hair curlers, another was on a stretcher.

"It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible. I have seen a human as I ran out and there is what looks like minced meat all over," said one a man who said he ran from the scene, Charles Njenga. He did not give details.

"I have been hiding. My colleagues were running everywhere," said another man, breathing heavily, who did not give an Associated Press video journalist his name. He said he hid in an office. "I didn't see an attacker. Yeah, it was a terrorist attack. I think so."

A witness, Robert Murire, said he saw at least two bodies at the scene, along with attackers wearing green and wrapped in ammunition.

Counselling and other trauma services are being provided.

What appears to be plainclothes security forces are seen inching their way toward the scene, guns in hand while helicopters could be heard. Other people appear to be taking cover behind fountains and other features in the lush outdoor complex.

An armored vehicle has arrived at the ongoing attack with police and army at the scene. Plainclothes police are going from shop to shop to clear out trapped civilians who are running away from the complex.

As a car bomb smolders outside the gate, sporadic gunfire can be heard coming from the complex.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia since 2011. The al-Qaeda-linked group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya, which has been targeted more than any other of the six countries providing troops to an African Union force in Somalia.

The attack immediately reminds many Kenyans of the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi in 2013, when al-Shabab extremists burst into the luxury shopping center, hurling grenades and starting a days-long siege that left 67 people dead.

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