Kenya Forces Battle to End Attack as Death Toll Climbs

(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan security forces struggled to end an attack on an upmarket hotel and office complex in the capital, Nairobi, after the first apparent major attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate in the East African nation in almost four years. At least 15 people were killed, the Associated Press reported.

Explosions and heavy gunfire were heard early on Wednesday morning as security officers engaged the assailants at the Dusit Hotel on the outskirts of the city center, the Nairobi-based Daily Nation newspaper reported. Scores of people who had been trapped inside the complex were rescued, it said.

The attack began on Tuesday afternoon 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.

Kenya Forces Battle to End Attack as Death Toll Climbs

“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.”

CCTV footage aired on Citizen TV and dated at 3:32 p.m. showed four gunmen in black entering the compound and shooting. Local television stations showed vehicles on fire near the entrance to the complex and police officers evacuating people from the scene.

The 14 Riverside complex, 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. Kenya has one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economies and serves as a hub for companies including General Electric Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

Kenya Forces Battle to End Attack as Death Toll Climbs

Previous attacks, including a raid on an upmarket shopping mall in 2013 that left at least 67 people dead, have curbed tourism -- a key industry that’s one of Kenya’s main generators of foreign exchange. 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 marked 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.

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