Death toll in Nairobi attack climbs to 21, plus 5 attackers

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Relatives of a person, who was killed in an attack on an upscale hotel compound, grieve in Nairobi, Kenya January 16, 2019. (Reuters)
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Kenya's Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i as he gives a statement at the scene of yesterday's extremist gunmen attack, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP)
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Relatives carry the coffin of Feisal Ahmed Rashid, who was killed the previous day in an attack that targeted a luxury hotel complex in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, on January 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019
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Death toll in Nairobi attack climbs to 21, plus 5 attackers

  • The attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali group Al-Shabab
  • “There were five terrorists and all of them are no more,” Kenyan police said

NAIROBI, Kenya: The death toll from an extremist attack on a luxury hotel and shopping complex in Nairobi climbed to 21, plus the five militants killed, police said Wednesday in the aftermath of the brazen overnight siege by Al-Shabab gunmen. Two people accused of facilitating the attack were arrested.
The number of those killed at the DusitD2 complex rose with the discovery of six more bodies at the scene and the death of a wounded police officer, said Joseph Boinnet, inspector-general of Kenyan police. Twenty-eight people were hurt and taken to the hospital, he said.
In a televised address to the nation earlier in the day, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the all-night operation by security forces to retake the complex was over and that all of the extremists had been killed.
“We will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act,” he vowed.
In an attack that demonstrated Al-Shabab’s continued ability to strike Kenya’s capital despite setbacks on the battlefield, extremists stormed the place with guns and explosives. Security camera footage released to local media showed a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a grassy area in the complex, the flash visible along with smoke billowing from the spot where he had been standing.
Of the civilian 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.
Al-Shabab, which is based in neighboring Somalia and allied with Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility. The Islamic extremist group also carried out the 2013 attack at Nairobi’s nearby Westgate Mall that killed 67 people, and an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that claimed 147 lives, mostly students.
While US airstrikes and African Union forces in Somalia have degraded the group’s ability to operate, it is still capable of carrying out spectacular acts of violence in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s campaign against it.
The bloodshed in Kenya’s capital appeared designed to inflict maximum damage to the country’s image of stability and its tourism industry, an important source of revenue.
The government said late Tuesday that buildings were secure. However, gunfire continued into Wednesday morning, and dozens of trapped people were rescued overnight. Several loud booms were heard Wednesday as teams sought to clear the complex of booby traps and other explosives.
Kenyatta’s announcement that the security operation was complete came about 20 hours after the first reports of the attack.
The Kenyan Red Cross said about 50 people were unaccounted for. But many of those were believed not to have been in the complex during the attack.
Ken Njoroge, CEO of a company in the DustiD2 complex that offers mobile banking services, said he was unable to locate several employees. “It’s very difficult for the families because the passage of time only makes the problem bigger,” he said.
The American killed in the attack was identified as Jason Spindler, co-founder and managing director of San Francisco-based I-DEV International. Spindler’s father, Joseph, said his son worked with international companies to form business partnerships in Kenya that would boost local economies.
The Houston-raised Spindler had a brush with tragedy on 9/11: He was employed by a financial firm at the World Trade Center at the time of the 2001 terrorist attack but was running late that morning and was emerging from the subway when the first tower fell, according to his father. He became covered in dust and debris as he tried to help others, the elder Spindler said.
In the Nairobi attack, a man who gave only his first name, Davis, described how he had escaped with colleagues by fleeing down a fire escape.
“It’s a traumatic experience. It shakes you,” he said. Still, Davis said he was impressed by the “inner strength” and compassion of people who helped each other in the midst of danger.
His own thoughts, he said, were: “Get people out and get out yourself. That’s it.”


Trump accepts Queen Elizabeth’s invite for UK state visit in June

Updated 6 min 13 sec ago
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Trump accepts Queen Elizabeth’s invite for UK state visit in June

  • The trip is likely to be controversial given many Britons deeply dislike Trump and reject his policies

LONDON: Donald Trump has accepted Queen Elizabeth’s invitation to make a state visit to Britain in June, becoming only the third US president to have been accorded the honor by the monarch, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday.
The trip is likely to be controversial given many Britons deeply dislike the man and reject his policies on issues such as immigration. Protests involving tens of thousands of demonstrators overshadowed a visit by Trump to Britain last July and organizers said they were planning a “huge demonstration” against his state visit.
The opposition Labour Party strongly criticized Prime Minister Theresa May for pressing ahead with the state visit, which May offered to Trump when she became the first foreign leader to visit him after his inauguration in January 2017.
Trump and his wife Melania will visit from June 3-5, the palace said, adding that further details would be announced in due course. State visits are usually pomp-laden affairs featuring an open-top carriage trip through central London and a banquet at Buckingham Palace.
“The UK and United States have a deep and enduring partnership that is rooted in our common history and shared interests,” May said in a statement.
May, who is facing calls for her resignation from some lawmakers in her own Conservative Party over her handling of the country’s exit from the European Union, which is still stalled, will be hoping for strong backing for a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal.
The state visit would be an opportunity to strengthen already close ties in areas such as trade, investment, security and defense, she said.
During his trip last year, Trump shocked Britain’s political establishment by giving a withering assessment of May’s Brexit strategy. He said she had failed to follow his advice such as suing the EU but later said May was doing a fantastic job.
“This is a President who has systematically assaulted all the shared values that unite our two countries, and unless Theresa May is finally going to stand up to him and object to that behavior, she has no business wasting taxpayers’ money on all the pomp, ceremony and policing costs that will come with this visit,” Emily Thornberry, Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Trump’s visit in June, which coincides with events to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France during World War Two, will include a meeting with May in Downing Street.

TEA AND PROTESTS
Last year, Trump was feted with a lavish dinner at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of the British World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and he and his wife also had tea with the queen at Windsor Castle.
The president then breached royal protocol by publicly disclosing details of a conversation he had with the 93-year-old monarch about the complexities of Brexit.
Trump’s state visit has been a divisive issue for Britons since May issued the invitation, with more than 1.8 million people signing a petition calling for him to be prevented from making such a trip, leading to a debate in parliament in 2017.
More than 100 protests were planned across the country during his visit last year and police had to deploy 10,000 officers, an operation that cost nearly 18 million pounds.
The largest protest in London attracted some 250,000 according to organizers, bringing much of the capital to a standstill.
They promised a “Together Against Trump” protest in June.
“He is a symbol of the new far right, a politics of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, of war and conflict, and walls and fences that are growing around the world,” said Shaista Aziz, from the Stop Trump coalition.
The queen, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has met every USleader since Harry S. Truman except for Lyndon Johnson. Only two US presidents — Barack Obama in 2011 and George W. Bush in 2003 — have previously been invited for full state visits.
After leaving Britain, Trump will travel to France to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, the White House said.