High-end complex in Nairobi now secure after suspected terror attack: Officials

https://abcnews.go.com/International/high-end-complex-nairobi-attack-police/story?id=60387909

An American was among more than a dozen killed when gunfire and explosions erupted at a high-end hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Department of State.

A State Department official described the attack at the upscale DusitD2 hotel as a “senseless act of violence,” and condemned the assault. The American embassy in Nairobi is closely monitoring the attack, and State Department officials have offered assistance to local authorities, the official told ABC News.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said 14 people were killed in the attack. The name of the American killed in the attack has not been released.

“As of this moment, we have confirmation that 14 innocent lives were lost through the hands of these murderous terrorists, with others injured,” Keyatta said in a broadcast early Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. “We are grieving as a country this morning, and my heart and the heart of every Kenyan, goes out to the innocent men and women violated by senseless violence.”

Kenyan authorities said early Wednesday that all buildings have been secured and the operation to neutralize the attackers was over. Local authorities are calling the situation a terror attack.

“The security teams have evacuated scores of Kenyans and other nationalities from the buildings. We are now in the final stages of mopping up the area and securing evidence and documenting the consequences of these unfortunate events,” Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Interior Fred Matiang’i said during a press conference Tuesday evening. “I can also report that the country is now secure, that the nation remains calm, that Kenyans and all of our visitors are safe and should feel free to continue getting about their normal businesses.

“The situation is under control, and the country is safe,” Matiang’i added. “Terrorism will never defeat us.”

A spokesperson for the State Department said, “All Mission personnel are safe and accounted for.”

Extremist group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, The Associated Press reported. The al-Qaida-linked group, based in neighboring Somalia, made the claim via its radio arm, according to the AP.

PHOTO: Map showing the location of an attack at a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2018.AP
Map showing the location of an attack at a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2018.

Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said in a press statement that the “suspected terror attack” began around 3 p.m. local time when a “group of armed assailants” stormed a gated complex in Nairobi’s affluent Westlands neighborhood. The upscale hotel, which is popular among foreigners, is located within the mixed-use compound.

An explosion targeted three vehicles in the parking lot and a suicide bomber detonated inside the hotel foyer, where a number of guests suffered severe injuries, according to Boinnet.

Video from the scene showed the cars ablaze and wounded people being carried away.

PHOTO: Members of security forces are seen at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2019.Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
Members of security forces are seen at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2019.

An eyewitness who identified himself as Nelson and said he works as a driver told the AP he hid in a fridge after hearing gunshots inside the complex.

“I found my colleagues running everywhere. Everybody was just running everywhere, so I went to our office,” Nelson told the AP. “I hid myself in the fridge, yeah. I’ve been in the fridge.”

PHOTO: Cars are seen on fire at the scene of explosions and gunshots in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2019.Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
Cars are seen on fire at the scene of explosions and gunshots in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2019.

Kenya’s National Police Service deployed officers to the scene to engage the attackers who were holed up inside the hotel. Meanwhile, the area has been cordoned off as residents are screened and evacuated, according to Boinnet.

Boinnet said Kenyan forces were going floor by floor and building by building to secure the complex.

“Specialist forces are now currently flushing them out. However, we regret to inform that there have been injuries in the attack,” the police inspector general told reporters in a statement.

PHOTO: A glass damaged by bullets is seen at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2019.Baz Ratner/Reuters
A glass damaged by bullets is seen at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2019.

The number of people who have been injured is unknown at this time.

“We urge the public to remain calm and to cooperate with all security forces and to provide any information that they may deem as useful,” Boinnet added.

ABC News’ Kaelyn Forde, Julia Jacobo, Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this report.