Kenya attack: All accounted for in al-Shabab hotel raid

Information minister says Kenyan forces 'swift' in ending the 20-hour siege that killed at least 21 people.

    Funerals are expected to be held on Thursday as mourning for the dead begins in Nairobi [Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]
    Funerals are expected to be held on Thursday as mourning for the dead begins in Nairobi [Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

    Kenyan bomb disposal experts searched on Thursday for leftover explosives at the site of the brazen attack on a Nairobi hotel complex that killed 21 people plus five al-Shabab fighters.

    The al-Qaeda affiliate said it carried out the attack in the Kenyan capital in response to US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

    Two people accused of facilitating the attack have been arrested.

    The Kenya Red Cross said on Thursday all people had now been accounted for after dozens were reported missing on Wednesday. 

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    The 20-hour siege at the DusitD2 hotel complex echoed a 2013 assault that killed 67 people at the Westgate mall in the same district.

    The Kenyan government said its quick reaction to the assault reflected improvements in its ability to respond to such audacious assaults on civilian targets.

    It was "much better handled" in comparison to the attack on the nearby Westgate Mall, said Joseph Mucheru, the information minister. Police took hours to respond to that attack, leading to reforms.

    "The speed, the response and the conclusion of this matter was swift," the minister said.

    Of the victims, 16 were Kenyan, one was British, one was American and three were of African descent but their nationalities were not yet identified, police said. 

    On Tuesday, authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen. The president said more than 700 civilians were rescued from the complex during and after the siege.

    Deadly hotel siege over, says Kenyan president (2:26)

    Tormented night

    It was a tormented night for families of those trapped as they waited outside the hotel with sporadic gunfire ringing out, and the rescue of dozens of people at about 3:30am (00:30GMT).

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    Mourning relatives and friends gathered at a nearby mortuary on Wednesday. Families who went to the Chiromo morgue were told they could not view bodies until a forensic investigation had been performed, provoking grief and anger.

    "My sister is not in any of the hospitals and the last time we spoke, she was a bit calm. But suddenly she started crying and shouting and I could hear gunshots and her phone remained on but she wasn't speaking," said a woman who gave her name as Njoki.

    "We have no doubt her body is here," she said, weeping.

    Coordinated attack

    CCTV footage broadcast on local media showed four black-clad, heavily armed men entering the complex.

    According to Kenya's police chief Joseph Boinnet, the coordinated assault began at 3pm local time (12:00 GMT) on Tuesday with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests.

    Hiram Macharia, a marketing executive at LG Electronics, said security officers rescued him and some colleagues from their office two hours after the attack began. But one colleague did not survive.

    "One of our colleagues went to the top of the building and his body was found there," he said.

    A police source told AFP news agency two attackers were shot dead on Wednesday morning after a prolonged attack.

    "The two have red bandanas tied around their forehead and bullets strapped around their chest with several magazines each," the senior police officer said. "Each had an AK-47 which has been secured."

    People are rescued by a security person [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

    The attack at DusitD2 was the first in Nairobi since the Westgate mall attack in 2013.

    On April 2, 2015, another al-Shabab attack had killed 148 people at the university in Garissa in eastern Kenya.

    The Westgate attack resulted in many upscale establishments and shopping centres in the capital - including the Dusit - putting up security barriers to check cars and pedestrians.

    Like the attack at the Westgate mall, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners.

    It came a day after a magistrate ruled three men must stand trial in connection with the Westgate mall attack.

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    Witness

    Lost Warrior: Leaving al-Shabab

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies