Militants claimed by Al-Shabaab attacked the DusitD2 Hotel complex with explosives and gunfire in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 15.
By Carolina McCabe
Rabat – Between Tuesday afternoon and the early hours of Wednesday, armed men attacked the DusitD2 Hotel complex in i, Kenya. The attack, which the Somali Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for, used a set of explosions and gunfire to target civilians. Among the victims, 11 were Kenyan, 1 was British, 1 was American, and the other 2 remain unidentified.
The attack lasted for hours in the DusitD2 complex, which contains upmarket shops, bars, restaurants, offices, banks, and hotel facilities. A standoff ensued through the night, which trapped people in the buildings of the complex. Authorities evacuated over 700 people to safety, according to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“The security operation at Dusit complex is over, and all the terrorists eliminated,” Kenyatta told reporters. “Innocent lives were lost through the hands of these murderers, terrorists,” he continued. While the number of gunmen remains unknown, it is reported there were at least four attackers. A source familiar with the situation told CNN they expect the death toll to rise and described the number of 15 dead as “conservative.”
Victims of the attack
One of the victims identified is American, Jason Spindler. Spindler was a survivor of the 9/11 attacks and the co-founder and managing director of I-DEV International. His mother confirmed his death, describing him as a “bright young person.” Spindler had received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation.
Luke Potter, a British development professional, had recently moved to Nairobi to work for Gatsby Africa as the head of their forestry and tea portfolio. “I am very sad to confirm that we believe that at least one British national has been killed in the attack,” said Nic Hailey, the UK high commissioner to Kenya.
Two of the victims, Abdalla Dahir and Feisal Ahmed, were Kenyan development professionals who worked for the consulting firm, Adam Smith International. The two worked on economic programs benefiting Somalia. Ahmed left behind a widow who is seven months pregnant.
Responses to the tragedy
The Red Cross in Nairobi responded by launching a blood drive to support the victims and urging people in the region to donate. The organization also created a support line, which provides resources to connect people searching for their loved ones as well as counseling.
Many Kenyans used Twitter in response to the tragedy, using the hashtag #WeShallOvercome to send messages of solidarity. Tweets highlighted the efforts of ordinary people in response to the tragedy.
United than ever. Kenyans are also donating blood all over.
Terrorism will never triumph! pic.twitter.com/rMPBIyie1i
— Donald L. Agwenge (@DonaldAgwenge) January 16, 2019
In a statement, the European Union offered its condolences to those injured or affected by the attack and affirmed it will be at the side of the Kenyan government and its citizens. “Kenya’s stand against terrorism, at home and abroad, is a necessary fight against a challenge that we all face – being it in Africa, in Europe or in the rest of the world – which will contribute to bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the country, the region and beyond,” said the statement.
How the attack happened
The attack began with an explosion in a bank parking lot, followed by a suicide blast in the lobby of the Dusit Hotel. The explosions were followed by gunfire.
“As we were leaving, there were gunshots all over the place,” said Evans Ng’ong’a, who was at the site of the attack. “Attackers jumped over the fence and started shooting after the explosion.”
The interior ministry released a statement early Wednesday, stating, “No further threat to public exists,” and claiming, “All buildings and surrounding area secure.” However, over 16 hours after the attack began, gunfire and explosions continued in the area.
Wednesday morning, Joseph Boinnet, the Kenyan police chief, reported that an evacuation was ongoing, contradicting the interior ministry’s assurances.
Previous attacks by al-Shabab militants against Kenya
The attack comes exactly three years to the day after al-Shabab killed dozens of soldiers in an attack on a Kenyan military base in Somalia.
Since Kenya launched a military operation in Somalia in 2011, Kenya has faced various attacks attributed to al-Shabab. The group has carried out at least five major attacks since 2013.
In 2013, the militant group attacked the Westgate shopping center, holding the mall hostage for several days and killing 67 people. The attack on Tuesday was about two miles from Westgate.
In April of 2015, al-Shabab militants attacked Garissa University College in Kenya, killing 148 people, mainly students.