Seth Onyango and James Magayi @PeopleDailyKe
After close to five of relative calm, security and quiet, the evil hand of terror returned to visit calamity on innocent Kenyans with an attack at DusitD2 hotel and 14 Hanover Building in the Nairobi’s affluent Riverside Drive, Nairobi.
The suspected terror attack claimed an unconfirmed number of lives and left several people with life-threatening injuries to add to its deadly past terror toll of 147 and 67 in the 2015 Garissa University College and 2013 Westgate Mall attacks, respectively.
And last evening, Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i said security services had neutralised the terrorists and secured all the affected buildings.
He assured Kenyans the country was safe and secure as he commended the security forces for swift and professional response.
Matiang’i, who had chaired a National Security Council last evening also commended foreign security agencies based in the country for their response.
He said security personnel were last night combing the rooms, in search of any clue as well as scrutinising everybody.
“The situation is under control and the country is safe,” said the CS, who vowed that Kenya will not neither be bowed nor surrender to the threat of terrorists, adding that the country will defend its territory and people.
Matiang’i said President Uhuru Kenyatta had been fully briefed of the matter since 3:30pm yesterday when he (the CS) and the National Security Advisory team started meeting.
This was the third deadliest terrorist attack in Nairobi, the country’s capital after the Westgate massacre and 1998 US embassy massacre that left more 200 people dead.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the attack by suspected terrorists believed to have been about six began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank while a suicide bomber himself blew up in the hotel’s lobby.
He said quick response by multi-agency team from various security units helped contain the attack with help from American and Israeli elite soldiers.
“Security and emergency services responded quickly to the incident and we immediately cordoned off the area and the situation is being managed and we’ve made evacuation of many persons in the complex. The operation is still ongoing,” said Boinnet.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti, the first senior security officer to arrive at the scene, took charge of the situation and coordinated the entire operation. He was later joined by Boinnet and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji and other senior security officers.
Witnesses said the gunmen arrived at the hotel at about 3.30pm in a saloon car. One of them started to shoot aimlessly, seriously injuring two University of Nairobi students who were walking out of their hostels at the opposite Chiromo campus.
The gunshots alerted police guarding the Australian embassy—about 100 metres away— who responded swiftly and engaged the gunmen in a gunfight deflating tyres of their car. The terrorists then proceeded to the main hotel lobby where one of them blew himself up.
People Daily has learned that the attack could have been catastrophic were it not for the swift response of the Flying Squad officers patrolling the area. Also saving the situation is said to have been a remote control meant to detonate vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, which the terrorists may have left behind.
It emerged the terrorists carried final reconnaissance just a few days before carrying out the attack that may have taken months to plan. According to police sources at the scene, the terrorists had surveyed their target before executing the attack in the heavily-guarded area.
One witness, a shoe and clothes seller near the gate, James Mwangi, recounted how the attackers started surveillance of the facility at the turn of the year in readiness for the assault.
“The same vehicle with skeletal caricature in the rear was parked here on January 2 and the occupants asked us to watch it as they run an errand in the compound. They gave us Sh100 when they returned,” he recalled
The attack caught security agencies and Kenyans unawares. The Dusit hotel boasts an elaborate security with all vehicles and pedestrians entering subjected to thorough checks before security barriers removed.It is the elaborate security at the entrance that could have prompted the attackers to shoot their way in.
Police who responded first to the scene took time to understand the gravity of attack before breaching.
Some of the grenades thrown landed on some vehicles in the parking blowing them up.
Immediately after the explosion, which police told People Daily was meant to cause commotion, the masked men started shooting at bystanders indiscriminately, killing one on the spot and injuring several others.
The gunmen divided themselves with one taking charge of buildings in the hotel complex.
At 4pm, the social media was awash with claims of occupants trapped in Dusit hotel.
At around 4:05pm, as the rescue mission was underway, with students at Chiromo hostels being ordered to vacate the premises.
At 4:25pm, the dreaded Recce squad arrived at the scene and swiftly advanced into the hotel to take control from the attackers.
Five minutes later, the elite squad of Kenya Air Force and their ground counterparts arrived at the scene to bolster the efforts of the Recce squad.
This happened as fire-fighters arrived at the scene to put out the burning vehicles that had been hit by the explosives.
Moments later, the US forces and the Mossad arrived at the scene and immediately moved in and started engaging the attackers.
The operation was carried out by the DCI, Recce Squad, Flying Squad, Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, ATPU and Bomb Squad led by DCI Director George Kinoti.
At 5:30pm, gunshots still rent the air as the multi-agency security team engaged the terrorists who were later killed.