Six heavily armed gunmen blasted their way into a luxury hotel and office complex, shot several people dead, wounded many and took hostages in a terror attack that sent people fleeing into the streets.
The attack was still underway by press time at 9pm, as the elite Recce Squad battled the gunmen and rescued people who are were trapped in their offices.
At least five bodies were lying at the reception and bar area and victims were rushed to nearby hospitals including MP Shah, Avenue the Aga Khan, Nairobi and Kenyatta National Hospital. There were no official tallies of dead or injured.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said that an attack was a suspected militant attack.
“A group of unknown armed assailants attacked the Dusit Complex in what we suspect could be a terror attack,” he said.
According to its website, 14 Riverside is home to local offices of international companies including BASF, Colgate Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical and SAP, as well as the DusitD2 hotel, part of the Thai hotel group Dusit Thani.
The Australian embassy is across the road from the compound. Kenya is an expatriate hub for diplomats, aid workers, businessmen and others operating around East Africa.
Sources, however, said that DusitD2 hotel has become a big hangout for Somali government officials when in Nairobi and one of them could have been the target.
“In Mogadishu, al Shabaab have run attacks like this on hotels where they were actually trying to assassinate someone,” he said.
Smoke from burning cars billowed in the air outside the DusitD2 hotel and office park on Riverside Drive in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood. The building was surrounded by heavily armed police and ambulances as wounded people were carried out on stretchers.
“The main door of the hotel was blown open and there was a human arm in the street severed at the shoulder,” said Serge Medic, the Swiss owner of a security company who ran to the scene to help civilians when he heard of the attack from his taxi driver.
Medic, who was armed, entered the building with a policeman and two soldiers, he said, but they came under fire and retreated. An unexploded grenade lay in the lobby, he said.
“One man said he saw two armed men with scarves on their heads and bandoliers of bullets,” Medic told Reuters, as gunfire echoed in the background, more than two hours after the attack began around 3pm.
A woman shot in the leg was carried out and three men emerged covered in blood. Some office workers climbed out of windows.
“There’s a grenade in the bathroom,” one officer yelled as police rushed out from one building.
“We heard a loud bang from something that was thrown inside. Then I saw shattered glass,” Geoffrey Otieno, who works at a beauty salon in the complex, said. “We hid until we were rescued.”
Kenya has often been targeted by al Shabaab, which killed at least 67 people in Westgate mall in 2013 and nearly 150 students at Garissa University College in April 2015.
“We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operation is going on,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman.
Heavily armed police moved slowly through the complex evacuating stores as frightened civilians poured out of shops with their hands in the air.
Chinese nationals were among those who were still being held hostage, prompting the Chinese Ambassador and her deputy to visit the scene
The hotel at 14 Riverside Drive is about four kilometres from the Westgate mall. The terror siege lasted four days.
The attack comes a day after the trial of three men linked to the Westgate massacre was ordered in the Kenyan capital.
At least two explosions were heard after eyewitnesses claimed four gunmen gained access into the hotel at around 3. The group arrived in a car and shot security guards at the hotel gates, before hurling explosive into vehicles parked outside the hotel.
Officers from the Recce Squad, Flying Squad, Anti-Terrorism Police Unit and the bomb squad were working to establish where the gunmen are within the building.
Surrounding buildings were reported by plainclothes and uniformed officers, and a Kenyan Air Force helicopters were hovering above the area.
The attack began at about 3pm when the gunmen arrived at the complex by car, shot their way past guards, threw bombs at vehicles in the car park and entered the building.
A woman working in a neighbouring building told Reuters news agency: "I just started hearing gunshots, and then started seeing people running away raising their hands up and some were entering the bank to hide for their lives."
As hundreds of people scampered for safety from the eight buildings, the gunmen started shooting indiscriminately as police officers rushed to the scene.
High end vehicles that had been packed at the facility was brought down by inferno, triggered by the explosion
But as things crystallised, tens of Kenya lay dead: another bloodbath in the city.
Terrified survivors, some with bullets wounds were being evacuated and rushed to various hospitals in the city as two Kenya Defence Forces choppers were hovering around.
Hundreds of uniformed and plain clothe officers, armed to the teeth took cover on the ground.
Tom Mutinda, an employee of RedHouse. said he was in the office when the explosions and gunshots started.
But as they were trying to escape, the terrorists fired several bullets at their window.
“They were many and they and fired at the same time. They exploded cars that were queuing for security checks before shooting security officers and those who were at the entrance,” he recalled.
More than 20 ambulances with blaring sirens from different hospitals and humanitarian organisations were on standby to rush those those rescued to hospital.
The anguish on the eyes of survivors told it all some too traumatized to speak
As they left the buildings with armed police officers in tow, many still carried their hands in surrender still unsure about their safety.
At around 4.30 pm, Recce squad security officers advanced into the hotel to try and neutralise the attackers. It this elite team that neutralised the terrorists at the Garissa University where hundreds of students were butchered by the militants.
Yesterday was the third anniversary of the El Adde attack when the militants attacked African Union base in Somalia and killed nearly 100 soldiers.
At Avenue hospital, there were nine casualties including a pregnant woman.
At the MP Shah hospital, one female died and four others, two females and two male patients are still receiving treatment.
Most of the casualties according to a staff who didn't not want to identified say some of the casualties were brought by bod boda riders with various injuries.
The hospital has an emergency and trauma team that was ready to receive casualties.
Majority of the casualties who were rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital had severe fire and explosion burns.
Three of the victims, for instance, had both hand and head burns.
None of the survivors who had been rushed at the KNH had gunshot wounds by around 6.20 pm yesterday.
However, more victims were still expected
Eric Omondi told the Star he had just picked a parcel at Red House office at Hanover building when the terrorists started shooting aimlessly.
He said two students were shot right in front of him at the main entrance.
One was shot on the shoulder while the other was shot on the leg.
“I was to be the third person to be shot, I don’t know how I escaped the bullet. It is just God,” he said.