At least 14 killed in Nairobi suspected terrorist attack

Somali militants al-Shabaab claim responsibility for attack at hotel in Kenya’s capital


Al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for a suspected terrorist attack on a hotel and office complex in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, on Tuesday in which at least 14 people were killed and several injured, according to Reuters.

The attack, which started at 3pm and was still continuing several hours later, took place in the upmarket Westlands neighbourhood within a short distance of where al-Shabaab killed at least 67 people at the Westgate shopping mall in 2013.

Kenya’s interior minister said late on Tuesday that security forces had secured all the buildings affected by the attack.

Gunfire was first reported at Nairobi’s Dusit D2 hotel and complex, where several foreign businesses rent office space. Police said they had dispatched special units to the scene amid reports that gunmen – and possibly members of the public – were still inside.

Witnesses told a local television channel that four gunmen had jumped from a car before shooting security guards and storming the complex. Video footage showed burning cars and dozens of people fleeing the scene.

Henry Githaiga, a witness who was evacuated from the building, said he first heard an explosion before people started running haphazardly. “There was a very loud explosion as people tried to evacuate,” he said, adding that most of them returned to the building due to gun shots.

In a statement, the Kenyan police confirmed the attack, saying: “We are aware the armed criminals are holding up in the hotel and specialist forces are now currently flushing them out.”

Westgate trial

The assault took place a day after a Kenyan court ruled that three men must stand trial for alleged involvement in the Westgate mall attack, which shook Kenya’s security establishment and forced an overhaul of its anti-terrorist activities.

A spokesman for al-Shabaab’s military operations, Abdiasis Abu Musab, said, according to Reuters: “We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operation is going on. We shall give details later.”

The al-Qaeda-affiliated group has waged an insurgency in southern Somalia for more than a decade and intensified attacks against Kenyan targets since the country sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to support a UN-backed operation. Three years ago, al-Shabaab militants stormed a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing about 140 soldiers.

Al-Shabaab blames Kenya for allowing its territory to be used as a US base for air attacks on its suspected camps in Somalia. According to Africom, the US Africa Command based in Germany, Washington has significantly stepped up drone attacks on suspected al-Shabaab terrorists since Donald Trump became US president.

In 2015 al-Shabaab militants launched an attack on a teacher-training college in Garissa, near the Somali border, in which 148 people died.

In October last year, two Kenyan teachers were killed when al-Shabaab militants threw an explosive device into a school near the Somali border.

“Al-Shabaab has a number of reasons why it is attacking Kenya,” said Rashid Abdi, an expert on the Horn of Africa at International Crisis Groupm a non-profit policy research organisation. “The major goal is to create pressure for the Kenyan government to have its soldiers out of Somalia.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019/Reuters