Explosion and gunfire at Nairobi hotel, office complex

Al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab said it was behind the attack

15 January 2019 - 15:38 By afp
Cars are engulfed in flames at the scene of explosions and gunshots in Nairobi, Kenya on January 15 2019.
Cars are engulfed in flames at the scene of explosions and gunshots in Nairobi, Kenya on January 15 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

A gunfight was underway following a blast at a hotel and office complex in a leafy Nairobi neighbourhood on Tuesday, an AFP reporter and a witness said.

A blast at the DusitD2 compound, which includes a hotel and several office buildings housing international companies, was heard from AFP’s offices some five kilometres away.

Simon Crump, who works at one of the offices, said workers had barricaded themselves inside their offices after “several” explosions.

“We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” he told AFP, adding that the people were terrified.

Police sirens echoed through the city and a helicopter buzzed overhead. A reporter sent to the scene said the gunmen and security forces were exchanging gunfire.

“There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire,” whispered another man working at the compound, asking not to be named.

The Al-Shabaab Islamist group in Somalia claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activities.

“All police teams including anti-terror officers are at the scene,” police spokesman Charles Owino said by phone.

Flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the parking lot of the compound where several vehicles were on fire, with scores of people fleeing the compound, some of them lightly injured.

The scenes in the Westlands suburb reminded Nairobians of a bloody terrorist attack in 2013 when Islamist gunmen stormed the Westgate mall, killing at least 67 people.

The country faced a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the Islamist Shabaab group, affiliated to Al-Qaeda. On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.

Gunmen stormed an upscale hotel and office compound in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on January 15 2019, killing at least one person in an attack claimed by Islamist militant group al-Shabaab.