An explosion followed by gunfire has been heard in an upscale complex in Nairobi, Kenya. Witnesses report policemen with guns drawn working their way to the scene.
Terrorists attacked an upscale office and hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. A witness reported seeing at least two bodies.
The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab is claiming responsibility for the attack and says its members are still fighting inside. The al-Qaida-linked group issued the claim via its radio arm, Andalus.
The complex in Nairobi includes a large hotel known as DusitD2, banks and offices. Several vehicles are burning. People are being rushed and carried from the scene.
Police spokesman Charles Owino says that "we have sent officers to the scene, including from the anti-terrorism unit, but so far we have no more information."
Attackers still inside building
Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said the assailants were still inside the complex.
"We are aware that armed criminals are holding up inside the hotel and special forces are now currently flushing them out," Boinnet said.
Ambulances, security forces and firefighters rushed to the scene with sirens wailing. A large group of women was rushed out by security forces, one woman still in hair curlers. Other groups were hurried away as plainclothes officers went shop to shop in the complex.
Nairobi police commander Philip Ndolo said they have cordoned off the area around Riverside Drive, where the dusitD2 hotel is located, due to a suspected robbery.
What appears to be plainclothes security forces are seen slowly working their way toward the scene, guns in hand.
Westgate Mall recalled
The attack immediately brings to mind for many Kenyans the Westgate Mall attack 2013, when al-Shabab extremists burst into the luxury shopping center, hurling grenades and starting a days-long siege that left 67 people dead.
The Islamist terrorists said the siege was in retaliation for the Kenyan military's involvement in fighting the Islamist group in Somalia. Upon entering the shopping center, the militants reportedly specifically targeted non-Muslims.
av/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)