People take cover after hearing gunfire coming from the Dusit Hotel complex after being rescued on January 15, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. A current security operation is underway after terrorists attacked the hotel. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ANDREW RENNEISEN
People take cover after hearing gunfire coming from the Dusit Hotel complex after being rescued on January 15, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. A current security operation is underway after terrorists attacked the hotel. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ANDREW RENNEISEN

Nairobi —  An explosion and sustained gunfire at an upmarket hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital sent workers fleeing for their lives on Tuesday, an attack claimed by Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab.

A plume of smoke rose above the complex. Firefighters extinguished three cars ablaze at the entrance as armed security personnel headed in and other armed officers escorted shocked workers out, many with their hands up.

A woman shot in the leg was carried out and three men emerged covered in blood. Some office workers climbed out of windows. Many told Reuters that they had had to leave colleagues behind, still huddled under their desks.

“There’s a grenade in the bathroom,” an officer yelled as police rushed out from one building.

A picture of the grounds on Twitter showed what appeared to be a human leg lying on the ground.

“We heard a loud bang from something that was thrown inside. Then I saw shattered glass,” Geoffrey Otieno, who works at a beauty salon in the complex, said. “We hid until we were rescued.”

Kenya has often been targeted by al-Shabaab, who killed dozens of people in a shopping centre in 2013 and nearly 150 students at a university in 2015.

“We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operations  [are] going on,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesperson.

The police  are treating the incident as a potential militant attack.

“We have to go for the highest incident that could take place. The highest incident we have is a terror attack,” police spokesperson Charles Owino told Citizen Television. Violent robberies are also common in Kenya.

“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. 

“We are under attack,” another person in an office  said, then hung up. 

Reuters