A year on, recalling the horror of Dusit terror attack

Four al Shabaab militants were behind the 20-hour siege at the Dusit D2 complex.

In Summary

• The 20-hour siege at the complex left 21 people dead and over 30 hospitalised.

• Between 2013 and 2017, Kenya has suffered 373 terror attacks, leaving 929 people dead, 1,149 injured and 666 taken hostage.

Vehicles burn at the entrance of DusitD2 attack following a terror attack on January 15, 2019.
Vehicles burn at the entrance of DusitD2 attack following a terror attack on January 15, 2019.
Image: FILE

It was just a normal day like today and business was going on as usual at the Dusit D2 complex.

Minutes after a lunch break, hell broke loose when two blasts followed by gunshots erupted within the complex.

The 20-hour siege at the complex started on Tuesday, January 15 and continued till around 10 am the following day.


Initial reports were of gunfire and two explosions at the hotel.

A group of four attackers said to be part of the outlawed Al Shabaab militia group stormed the complex in two vehicles.

One of the attackers blew himself up next to the Secret Garden restaurant.

After the blast the remaining terrorists forced guards to open the gates of 14 Riverside Drive by shooting at them and lobbing grenades as they made their way into the complex, setting ablaze some of the vehicles in the parking bay.

The then Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinet said a suicide bomber was involved in the attack.

Boinnet said the first explosion that destroyed vehicles and injured several people at the entrance of the building was by the suicide attacker.

"The attack started at the I&M bank with an explosion that targetted three vehicles in the parking lot. It was followed by a suicide explosion at the front of the Dusit Hotel where a number of guests suffered severe injuries," the IG told a media briefing.


As occupants ran for their dear lives in the horrific attack, some 21 people, unfortunately, died while over 30 were left hospitalised.

The elite Recce squad, the anti-terrorism Police and the General Service Unit were sent in to rescue hostages and combat the militants.

Though members of the private security forces and armed individuals with some off duty police officers were first to respond, masked members of the British SAS, who were in the country to conduct training, accompanied by unnamed member of Diplomatic Protective Services Tactical Response Unit started clearing floor by floor of the office and car park buildings.

Over 700 were safely evacuated from the complex thanks to the team of security personnel.

 While it had been thought that the attack had been neutralized after a few hours, gunfire and explosions were again heard on the morning of January 16.

Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement that was released during the attack.

They claimed that the attack was a response to US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Global terrorism database compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (better known as Start) indicates that between 2013 and 2017, Kenya has suffered 373 terror attacks, leaving 929 people dead, 1,149 injured and 666 taken hostage.

The terrorist group has previously attacked Westlands during the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack, which left 67 people dead.

In 2015, al Shabaab terrorists were involved in the mass shooting of Garissa University College students leaving 147 dead and many others injured.

This incident was Kenya’s worst terrorist attack since the 1998 United States Embassy bombing, which left over 200 people dead.

Immediately after the incident concluded, the 14 Riverside Drive complex and its immediate environs were closed to the public as police termed the area an active scene of a crime.

This left some 40 firms which had rented space within the complex affected.

Some of the multi-national firms hosted in the office complex include Reckitt Benckiser, Amadeus Global Travel Distribution Ltd, JHPiego Corporation, Colgate Palmolive (EA) Limited and Cellulant Kenya Limited.

Others are Adam Smith International, LG Electronics Africa Logistics FZE, Quintessentially Lifestyle Services, and Mitsui & Co. Europe Plc.

Local firms with offices in the complex include Brighter Monday, Redhouse Group, HIP Partners Kenya, Kenya Gatsby Trust Westlands Forex Bureau ExChange among others.

Firms with an East African outlook based at the office block include SAP East Africa, Fanisi Capital, AC Nielsen Kenya Limited, Sandawoods Limited, Horizons Group Limited.

Detectives from the DCI launch a manhunt and traced the residence of the terror suspects to Kiambu, Mombasa and Nyeri counties.

It was later established that the attackers had planned a twin assault in Mombasa, police said.

Police foiled the attack after communication from the DusitD2 planners leaked.

The terrorists had started ferrying weapons and explosives from Malindi after sneaking in through Boni Forest.

But reports indicate they canceled the plans after police mounted roadblocks in search of a 14-seater matatu that was to deliver the ammunition.

Six people were arrested and arraigned in court accused of assisting in the terrorist attack.

Police reports indicated that one of the suspects linked to the attack received Sh9 million from South Africa in three months and sent it to Somalia.

The cash was received through M-Pesa.

Hassan Abdi Nur has 52 M-Pesa agent accounts. Forty-seven were registered between October and December in 2018,  each with a SIM card.

He used different IDs to register the SIM cards.

These are the agents that received the money, which was later withdrawn at the Diamond Trust Bank, Eastleigh branch before it was wired to Somalia.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji confirmed that the Sh30 million withdrawn from DTB Bank in Eastleigh was used to finance the attack.

Haji told MPs the money was sent to al Shabaab headquarters in Jilib town, Somalia.

Haji told the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that the bank management tried to influence his office not press charges in connection with financing the January 15 attack.