Gunmen have blasted their way into
Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said on Tuesday that the attack began with an explosion targeting cars followed by a detonation from a suicide bomber.
“We can now confirm that this criminal activity commenced at about three o’clock [1200 GMT] in a coordinated fashion and began at I&M Bank with an explosion that targeted three vehicles in the parking lot…,” Boinnet said in a statement on television.
The attack on the Dusit hotel complex – which also houses offices and banks – sent people fleeing for their lives. More than three hours after the attack began, small groups of workers were still being taken out by officers escorting them to armoured vehicles.
“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.
“It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible. I have seen a human as I ran out and there is what looks like minced meat all over,” said a man who ran from the scene. He did not elaborate further.
Al-Shabab claims responsibility
The al-Shabab group, which has been fighting the western-backed government in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was in control of most parts of the building complex.
“Our fighters killed 47 enemies inside the complex. The mujahideen are still in control of most parts of the building complex,” the group’s military operations spokesman, Abdiaziz Abu Mus’ab, told Al Jazeera.
However, no casualty figures have been released by officials.
Boinnet earlier said that police had secured six out of seven floors at the Dusit hotel complex that fighters attacked.
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.
A bomb disposal unit was on the scene.
The attack came a day after a trial began in the 2013 Westgate mall attack case. At least 67 people were in killed in that attack, which was also carried out by al-Shabab group.
Kenyan prosecutors say suspects in the Westgate case currently on trial committed a terrorist act and used false documents. The men deny all charges.
The African Union chief, Moussa Faki, condemned the attack and commended Kenyan security forces for their “swift response”.
A spate of attacks
The East African country faced a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in 2011 to fight the al-Qaeda-linked group.
Kenyan troops, concentrated in south Somalia, originally went into Somalia to try to create a buffer zone along the border. They are now part of an African Union peacekeeping force.
Tuesday’s attack is exactly three years after al-Shabab overran a Kenyan army base in Somalia, killing dozens of soldiers.
On April 2, 2015, in one of the most gruesome attacks on Kenyan soil, the armed group killed 148 people, most of them students, at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.