A large explosion and gunfight hit an office and hotel complex in Nairobi on Tuesday in an attack claimed by hardline Islamist group Al Shabaab. At least five people were killed, according to the AFP news agency, while Kenyan media reported one suspect arrested. Footage from the scene depicted frightened workers fleeing for their lives.
Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said they were still confirming the number of fatalities and casualties, according to AFP. "We are aware that there are criminals still holed up and our officers are trying to flush them out," he said.
The security forces had secured six out of seven of the hotel floors by 20:25 local time, Boinnet said, according to the Reuters news agency. Boinnet said a suicide bomber had been involved in the attack which began at I&M bank at 15:00.
The Daily Nation newspaper reported that Kenyan police had arrested one suspect following the attack as rescue operations continued.
Somali group Al Shabaab claimed the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activity. SITE's Rita Katz said Shabaab described it as "one of the most opulent areas of the Kenyan capital...where offices of international representatives are present".
The main entrance of a hotel at the 14 Riverside Drive complex in the Westlands area was blown apart and a human arm lay in the street, according to Serge Medic, the Swiss owner of a security company who entered the building alongside a police officer and two soldiers in an effort to help civilians.
Medic said they came under fire and withdrew from the area, according to Reuters. He said an unexploded grenade lay in the lobby, while one witness told him that he saw two armed men with scarves on their head.
The attack comes exactly two years to the day after Shabaab attacked a Kenyan military base in El Adde in the Gedo region of Somalia. It is the first attack in Nairobi since the Westgate mall attack when 67 people were killed by Shabaab during a siege that lasted five days.
Riverside Drive complex is home to a number of international companies and the dusitD2 hotel, part of a Thai hotel group.
Eyewitnesses described a flash of light and loud bang before flames and plumes of smoke began billowing into the sky. Several cars were set ablaze in the explosion.
Police spokesperson Charlies Owino said a number of different police teams had been dispatched to the area and they considered it as the "highest" kind of attack, AFP reported. Two helicopters were reportedly seen overhead and police sirens were heard throughout the city.
Kenyan media broadcast urgent appeals for blood at the Avenue Hospital and the Kenyan Red Cross announced a telephone number for families searching for their loved ones.