Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Attack in Nairobi

Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Attack in Nairobi

Another man working at the compound, who also asked not to be named, told AFP: "There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire".

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, said he entered the building with a policeman and two soldiers but they came under fire and retreated.

Many people said they had to leave colleagues behind, still huddled under their desks.

Kenyan special forces take position outside a hotel complex following an explosion in Nairobi's Westlands suburb on January 15, 2019, in Kenya.

Gunshots rang out sporadically as night fell in Nairobi, where police combed the hotel and outlying office buildings for survivors while trying to flush out the attackers. He said he hid in an office.

The photographer saw five bodies slumped over tables on a restaurant terrace in the complex, which was hit in an attack claimed by Al-Shabaab terrorists.

As officers searched luxury fashion displays, wounded people were carried away on stretchers.

"What I have seen is awful", Charles Njenga, a man who ran from the scene, said.

Witnesses and police at the scene called it the latest terror attack in a country that has seen several deadly ones in recent years.

He gave no details on the number of dead or wounded.

People were seen being escorted away from the scene by heavily armed officers, as cars burned in a nearby parking lot. So I went to our offices, I hid myself in the fridge. Several vehicles are burning.

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The attack bore numerous hallmarks of a terrorist operation and was being described as a terrorist incident by police at the scene. Sustained automatic gunfire and grenade explosions were heard shortly afterwards, as scores of people fled the scene.

"It is awful. What I have seen is bad".

However, speaking to local television, a spokesperson for the police said they are not ruling out the possibility that it is a militant attack.

The attack occurred less than 2km from the Westgate Mall, which is in an area considered one of the safest parts of the city following a similar attack by the same terrorist group in 2013.

Ambulances and security forces were rushed to the scene, and what appeared to be plainclothes security forces were seen inching their way toward the scene.

A large group of women were hurried out by security forces, one woman still in curlers.

A witness who gave his name only as Ken said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab has in the recent past launched terror attacks that have claimed several lives in Kenya, in protest to the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia. If confirmed, it would be the group's first major attack in Kenya since it raided a university campus in Garissa county in April 2015, killing at least 147 people.

The attack immediately reminds many Kenyans of the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi in 2013, when al-Shabab extremists burst into the luxury shopping center, hurling grenades and starting a days-long siege that left 67 people dead.

It is not clear how many attackers were involved, but the bloodshed appears to fit the pattern of attacks Al-Shabaab often carries out in Somalia's capital, where an explosion is followed by a group of gunmen storming the target building.

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