'There Was No Time to Count the Dead' in Nairobi Attack

Al-Shabab claims responsibility for attack on luxury hotel
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 15, 2019 12:34 PM CST
Kenya Attack Witness: 'What I Have Seen Is Terrible'
Civilians flee the scene at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

(Newser)

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. A witness said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance alone. Al-Shabab—the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group that carried out the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead—claimed responsibility. "It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible," said a man who ran from the scene. As night fell, gunfire continued more than two hours after the first shots were heard at the complex, which includes the DusitD2 hotel, along with bars, restaurants, banks, and offices and is in a well-to-do neighborhood with large numbers of American, European, and Indian expatriates. The latest from the AP:

  • It was not clear how many attackers took part. "We are aware that armed criminals are holing up in the hotel, and special forces are now currently flushing them out," said Kenya's national police chief, Joseph Boinnet, describing the assault as a suspected terror attack.
  • Boinnet gave no figures on the dead and wounded. However, a Kenyan police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media said that bodies were seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs, but "there was no time to count the dead." The BBC quotes an AFP photographer as having seen five dead bodies at tables on a restaurant terrace.

  • 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 violence appeared to fit the pattern of attacks al-Shabbab often carries out in Somalia's capital, with an explosion followed by a group of gunmen storming the place. Like the Westgate Mall attack, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners living in the country.
  • The attack immediately brought to mind the Westgate Mall massacre, when al-Shabab extremists burst into the luxury shopping center, hurling grenades and starting a dayslong siege. The mall is about a mile from the hotel complex. In 2015, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on Kenya's Garissa University that killed 147 people, mostly students.
  • A Somali diplomat who likewise spoke on condition of anonymity said Somali officials were in the hotel for meetings at the time of the attack and several were feared to still be inside.
(Here's a look at large-scale extremist attacks in Kenya over the years.)

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