Gunmen kill 15 in Kenya hotel compound attack claimed by Somali extremists

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People are evacuated by a member of security forces at the scene of the attack. (Reuters)
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Civilians fled the scene shortly after the shooting started. (AFP)
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A woman is evacuated as gunshots ring out near the Dusit hotel complex. (Reuters)
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An explosion set cars ablaze outside the hotel complex. (AP)
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People evacuated from the scene in Nairobi. Al-Shabaab said its gunmen were behind the attack. (Reuters)
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Security forces are seen at the scene of a blast in Nairobi. (AP)
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An official helps a woman escape following the start of the attack. (AFP)
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Cars are seen on fire at the scene of explosions and gunshots in Nairobi, Kenya January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
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A member of security forces keeps guard as people are evacuated at the scene. (Reuters)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Gunmen kill 15 in Kenya hotel compound attack claimed by Somali extremists

  • Gunfight heard late into the night despite government saying the complex had been secured
  • Somali extremists Al-Shabaab say its gunmen are responsible for the attack

NAIROBI: Gunmen blasted their way into a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday, killing at least 15 people and sending workers diving under desks to escape an attack claimed by Somalia-based extremist group Al-Shabab.

More than 12 hours after the assault began at Nairobi’s upscale 14 Riverside Drive complex, bursts of gunfire and blasts were heard in the area, undermining government assurances everything was under control.
The shots rang out at around 3:30 a.m. local time (0030 GMT) as a group of around 150 workers was escorted from a building where they had sought refuge. Many more remained inside and some needed first aid for gunshot wounds, a first responder told Reuters.
By 1 a.m. local time, 15 bodies had arrived at Chiromo Mortuary and more were expected, an attendant told Reuters.
Identification papers indicated that 11 were Kenyan, one was American and one was British, he said. The other two were not carrying documents.

 

A US State Department official confirmed one of the victims was American.
“We can confirm that a US citizen was killed in the attack,” the official said without giving further details.
Kenya’s Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i had said at 11 p.m. that all buildings at the scene had been secured and scores of people evacuated. But he did not comment on the attackers’ whereabouts and said security forces were still “mopping up.”
Nairobi is a major hub for expatriates and the compound targeted contained offices of various international companies, in an echo of a deadly 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping center in the same neighborhood.

"The main door of the hotel was blown open and there was a human arm in the street severed from the shoulder," said Serge Medic, the Swiss owner of a security company who ran to the scene to help when he heard of the attack from his taxi driver.

Medic, who was armed, entered the building with a policeman and two soldiers, he said, but they came under fire and retreated. An unexploded grenade lay in the lobby, he said.
"One man said he saw two armed men with scarves on their head and bandoliers of bullets," Medic told Reuters, as gunfire echoed in the background.
Kenya has often been targeted by al Shabaab, who killed 67 people at the Westgate shopping centre in 2013 and nearly 150 students at Garissa university in 2015. Al Shabaab says its attacks are revenge for Kenyan troops stationed inside Somalia, which has been riven by civil war since 1991.

Kenya has often been targeted by Al-Shabab, who killed 67 people at the Westgate shopping center in 2013 and nearly 150 students at Garissa University in 2015. Al Shabab says its attacks are revenge for Kenyan troops stationed inside Somalia, which has been riven by civil war since 1991.
Earlier in the day, office workers had streamed from the complex, some jumping from windows. Security forces continued to escort small groups to safety into the evening, with some hustled into armored vehicles amid sporadic gunfire.
Foreign security advisers at the site scrambled to make sure their clients were safe.

An explosion set cars ablaze outside the hotel complex. (AP)

Gunfire and explosions

Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said the attack began around 3 p.m. with an explosion targeting cars outside a bank followed by a detonation from a suicide bomber in the hotel lobby. As he spoke, a Reuters reporter on the scene reported heavy gunfire, then an explosion shortly afterwards.
Surveillance video showed three attackers dressed in black running across the parking lot at 3:30 p.m. shortly followed by a fourth. At least two of the men were wearing green scarves in the close-up footage. One appeared to be wearing a green belt with grenades on it.A Spanish national was among the injured, a Spanish diplomat told Reuters.
The US Embassy had offered assistance, a State Department official said, adding all American diplomats were safe.
A woman shot in the leg was carried out of the complex, and several men emerged covered in blood. Some office workers climbed out of windows. Many told Reuters they had to leave colleagues behind, still huddled under their desks.
“There’s a grenade in the bathroom,” one officer yelled as police rushed out from one building.
Geoffrey Otieno, who works at a beauty salon in the complex, said he heard a loud bang from something thrown inside the building, then saw shattered glass.

“We hid until we were rescued,” he said.
Meanwhile, Simon Crump, an Australian who works for an international firm in the complex, barricaded himself inside a spare room with two other people. They waited there for about 2-1/2 hours for help to arrive, their minds racing.
“You’re hiding under a desk trying to figure out what’s going on, and you just don’t know, as there’s so much misinformation,” he said.
When soldiers finally reached the group, they instructed them to put their phones away and put their hands in the air as they made their way to safety.

A woman is evacuated as gunshots ring out near the Dusit hotel complex. (Reuters)

International companies

Al Shabab, which wants to overthrow the weak, United Nations-backed Somali government and impose strict Islamic law, quickly said it was responsible.
“We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operation is going on,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters by telephone in Somalia.
According to its website, 14 Riverside is home to local offices of international companies including Colgate Palmolive , Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical and SAP, as well as the dusitD2 hotel, part of Thai group Dusit Thani.
Kenya is a base for hundreds of diplomats, aid workers, businessmen and others operating around East Africa.
The Australian Embassy is across the road from the compound.
“I just started hearing gunshots, and then started seeing people running away raising their hands up and some were entering the bank to hide for their lives,” a woman working in a bank in the complex said, adding she heard two explosions.
Kenyan television featured appeals for blood from local hospitals and showed police cordoning off the route to ensure vehicles could move quickly. Red Cross ambulances ferried victims away.
Kenyan troops, concentrated in southern Somalia, originally entered the country to try to create a buffer zone along the shared border. They now form part of an African Union peacekeeping force.
The attack took place as a Kenyan court prepares to sentence four men accused of aiding the Westgate mall attack.


Flight attendant detained by immigration on return to US

Updated 23 min 51 sec ago
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Flight attendant detained by immigration on return to US

  • Selene Saavedra Roma immigrated illegally to the US from Peru as a child and was later married to an American citizen
  • Enrolled in the government’s program for “Dreamers”, she flew to Mexico for work and was detained due to lack of valid document

WASHINGTON: A Texas flight attendant who was enrolled in the government’s program for “Dreamers” flew to Mexico for work and was stopped by immigration authorities who forced her to spend more than a month in detention, her attorney said.
Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, who immigrated illegally to the US as a child, was released Friday from a detention center in Conroe, Texas, according to a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Originally from Peru and married to an American citizen, she raised concerns with Mesa Airlines about her immigration status after being assigned to an international flight, attorney Belinda Arroyo said.
The airline assured her she would be fine, but she was stopped by US authorities on Feb. 12, when she returned to Houston, and was sent to detention, where she remained for more than five weeks, Arroyo said.
Soon after her lawyer, her husband, the airline and a flight attendants’ group publicly demanded her release, Saavedra Roman called to tell her husband she was getting out.
“She was crying and she said, ‘Please come get me,’” her husband, David Watkins, told reporters.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency was looking into her status. Earlier, the agency said Saavedra Roman did not have a valid document to enter the country and was being detained while going through immigration court proceedings.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services — the agency that oversees the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — declined to discuss the case. But the agency says on its website that participants who travel outside the country without a special document allowing them to do so are no longer covered by the program.
The agency no longer issues the document to the program’s enrollees, according to the website.
People enrolled in the program are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.
The Trump administration sought to end the Obama-era program but was blocked by litigation. New applications have been halted, but renewals continue for hundreds of thousands of immigrants already enrolled.
In a joint statement with the Association of Flight Attendants, Mesa Airlines chief executive Jonathan Ornstein apologized to Saavedra Roman and asked US authorities to release her, arguing that it was unfair to continually detain someone “over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding.”
“She should have never been advised that she could travel,” Arroyo said. “It was a big mistake.”
Saavedra Roman — who is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April — attended Texas A&M University, where she met her husband.
Watkins said he was not initially worried about her assignment because they already obtained approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for her green card as the wife of an American citizen. She has no criminal record and has long paid her taxes, he said, and she checked with her employer before the trip.
Then she was detained. He could visit her only once a week and could only see her through thick glass. She sounded hopeless, he said.
“I told her, ‘Even if you get deported to Peru, I’ll just go with you,’” he said to reporters. “Regardless of whatever happens in the future, I am not giving up. I am going to keep fighting.”
In a statement, the union representing Saavedra Roman and her colleagues said the event “highlights the urgency of commonsense immigration reform and resolution for America’s children who are part of DACA.”