Tanzania Not Sharing Information On Suspected Ebola – WHO

Health workers participating in an Ebola preparedness drill. AFP photo.

 

 

The World Health Organization has accused Tanzania of failing to provide information on suspected cases of Ebola in the country, potentially hindering efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

East African nations have been on high alert over an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has left 2,103 people dead. Four people were diagnosed with the virus in Uganda and later died.

The WHO said it had learned on September 10 of a suspected case of the disease in Tanzania’s port city of Dar es Salaam, and information emerged that this patient’s contacts had been quarantined, and that the person had tested positive for Ebola.

Two other suspected cases were also unofficially reported.

“Despite several requests, WHO did not receive further details of any of these cases from Tanzanian authorities,” the organisation said in a statement issued Saturday.

On September 14 Tanzanian authorities officially reported there was no Ebola in the country, but declined “secondary confirmation testing” at a WHO centre, the global body said.

Then on Thursday, the WHO was made aware that a contact of the initial patient was sick and in hospital.

“To date, the clinical details and the results of the investigation, including laboratory tests performed for differential diagnosis of these patients, have not been shared with WHO.”

‘Very high risk’

The lack of information received by WHO meant it cannot determine the cause of the illness, it said.

“The limited available official information from Tanzanian authorities represents a challenge for assessing the risk posed by this event.”

The WHO determined that because the initial patient travelled widely in the country and due to uncertainty around the cases, the lack of information and the fact that, if confirmed, it would be the first-ever outbreak of Ebola in the country, “the risk was assessed as very high at national level”.

“At this stage, WHO is not aware of signs of a widespread transmission of any illness related to these cases, however investigations, including with the support of WHO Collaborating Centres, should continue to reach a diagnosis and further inform the risk assessment,” said the statement.

They also warned of a high risk for the region.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak is the second-worst in history after more than 11,000 people died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

But the containment efforts have been hindered from the start by conflict in eastern DRC, as well as attacks on medical teams tackling the haemorrhagic fever amid resistance within some communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.

Man Drowns While Trying To Propose Underwater

 

An American man has drowned while proposing to his girlfriend underwater at an idyllic island off the coast of Tanzania, a luxury resort said in a statement Sunday.

His girlfriend Kenesha Antoine posted on her Facebook page footage of Steven Weber proposing to her through the window of their underwater hotel room at the luxury Manta Resort in Zanzibar.

“You never emerged from those depths so you never got to hear my answer, ‘Yes! Yes! A million times, yes, I will marry you!!’,” she wrote Friday in a post confirming his death.

Her video shows Weber swimming up to the window, and pressing a handwritten note against it which read: “I can’t hold my breath long enough to tell you everything I love about you, but everything I love about you I love more every day. Will you please be my wife, marry me.”

He then pulled out a ring as Antoine squealed with joy while filming.

It is unclear what went wrong during the proposal at Pemba Island, a popular honeymoon destination.

“We never got to embrace and celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives together, as the best day of our lives turned into the worst, in the cruelest twist of fate imaginable,” Antoine wrote.

“Knowing him, always quick with an off-color joke, he’s probably entertaining someone with a story about how he royally screwed up that proposal and died while being extra.”

Manta CEO Matthew Saus confirmed to AFP in an email Sunday that “a male guest tragically drowned while freediving alone outside the underwater room” on Thursday.

“The accident is currently under investigation by the local Zanzibar police authority.”

The couple were staying in the resort’s famed “Underwater Room”, a $1,700 (1,500 euro) a-night floating structure offshore in crystal clear waters, where the bed is surrounded by glass windows looking into the ocean.

Tanzanian Arrested With Tusks From 117 Elephants

In this file photo taken on March 20, 2015 an elephant splashes at sunset in the waters of the Chobe river in Botswana Chobe National Park, in the north eastern of the country.

 

A Tanzanian man has been arrested after authorities found a stash of ivory buried under his house, estimated to come from around 117 elephants, authorities said Thursday.

The suspect, who had been sought by authorities since 2016, had in his possession 338 pieces of elephant tusk, and 75 whole tusks, the minister of natural resources, Hamisi Kigwangalla, said in a statement.

He was arrested along with seven alleged accomplices, and the tusks are believed to have come from Tanzania and Mozambique.

“Until his arrest on Tuesday, he was unable to move this stock, because we have become extremely vigilant,” said Kigwangalla.

READ ALSO: Two Aid Workers Killed In ‘Ambush’ In Western Ethiopia

“I am giving a period of grace of one month for any person in possession of elephant tusks to hand them in to authorities without facing prosecution.”

Since 2016, around 1,000 poachers, some heavily armed, have been arrested in Tanzania whose elephant population plunged 60 percent between 2009 and 2014 due to poaching.

In February a Tanzanian court sentenced Chinese citizen Yang Fenlan — dubbed the “Ivory Queen” — to 15 years in jail for her role in trafficking tusks from more than 400 elephants.

Poaching has seen the population of African elephants fall by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The slaughter is being fuelled especially by demand in Asia, where ivory is used for jewellery and ornamentation.

Cattle Rustlers Kill 12 In Kenya

 

At least 12 people, including three children, were killed in two attacks in northern Kenya at the weekend by cattle rustlers suspected to be from the Borana ethnic group, Kenyan police said Sunday.

The attacks on two villages in Kenya’s Marsabit County near the border with Ethiopia were on cattle breeders from the Gabra ethnic group, long-time rivals of the Borana, police said in a statement.

“Five male Gabra adults were killed and three others were seriously injured” in one small village on Saturday evening, police said.

The attackers, who took around 500 head of cattle, were “suspected Ethiopian Borana cattle rustlers”, the police said.

In the other attack, on a nearby village, four Gabra adults and three children between the ages of 13 and 15, including one girl, were killed, with four people injured.

The thieves took around 1,000 goats in the second attack, in which one of the raiders was killed.

Kenyan police units are “pursuing the criminals and holding ground to prevent further attacks and killings,” the statement said.

Kenya started conducting its first national census since 2009 on Saturday, and the authorities said the exercise would continue in Marsabit.

The theft of livestock — and deadly attacks to carry out the crime — are common between cattle herding communities in northern Kenya.

Albino Teen Found Dismembered In Burundi

 

A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.

Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from DR Congo, not far from his home village.

“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm, and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.

READ ALSO: Indonesia Police Shoot Suspected Militant After Station Attack

More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home.

Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.

Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania — where such attacks are the most prevalent — has fuelled such killings in border areas.

China, Ethiopian Airlines Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 Fleet After Crash

Sunday’s crash was the second involving a Boeing 737 (pictured) in six months. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

As more questions emerge over the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane after Sunday’s crash, China and Ethiopian Airlines have grounded the fleet.

Ethiopian Airlines said Monday it had grounded its fleet after a crash that killed 149 passengers and eight crew.

“Following the tragic accident of ET 302… Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we have to decide to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” said the airline, Africa’s largest.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Chaos In Imo As Party Agents Disrupt Collation Process

All 157 people on board died when Nairobi-bound Flight ET 302 came down just six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa.

It ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of the Ethiopian capital.

Grounded In China

Also on Monday, China ordered domestic airlines to suspend commercial operation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

Noting the “similarities” between Sunday’s crash and that of Indonesia, China’s Civil Aviation Administration said domestic airlines had until 6:00 pm local time (1000 GMT) to ground all 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

The Indonesia Lion Air flight had crashed after takeoff from Jakarta in October, killing all 189 people on board.

Operation of the model will only resume after “confirming the relevant measures to effectively ensure flight safety”, the administration said in a statement.

The aviation authority will contact the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, it said.

China is an important market for the US aircraft company, accounting for about one-fifth of worldwide deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX models.

The company has delivered 76 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to Chinese airlines, which have ordered another 104, according to data from the aircraft maker’s website updated through January.

Boeing and joint venture partner Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China operate a plant in the eastern city of Zhoushan that completes the interiors of 737 MAX planes for Chinese airlines.

The factory delivered its first MAX 8 plane to Air China in December. The planes are assembled in Renton, Washington state, and taken to Zhoushan to finish the interior work, according to Boeing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his condolences to the leaders of Ethiopia and Kenya, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a regular briefing.

Four of the Chinese victims are employees of Chinese companies, two work for the United Nations and two were people from Liaoning and Zhejiang provinces on personal trips, Lu said.

“China hopes Ethiopia will find the cause as soon as possible, keep China posted, and properly handle the follow-up work,” Lu added.

AFP

Pilot Of Crashed Plane Reported ‘Difficulties’, Asked To Return – Ethiopian Airlines

A man carries a piece of debris on his head at the crash site of a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight near Bishoftu, a town some 60 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 10, 2019. A Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines Boeing crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists, business travellers, and “at least a dozen” UN staff. Michael TEWELDE / AFP

 

The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, had alerted controllers “he had difficulties” and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.

The pilot “was given clearance” to return to Addis, Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.

Read Also: No Survivors On Crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737

The crash which has claimed the lives of the over 157 persons on board from over 33 countries, came on the eve of a major, annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme opening in Nairobi.

The plane had taken off at 8:38 am (0538 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa by road.

It came down near the village of Tulu Fara outside Bishoftu.

Below is a list of the number victims and their countries. The count, however, is not final.

Africa 

Kenya     32

Ethiopia   9

Egypt      6

Morocco    2

Djibouti   1

Mozambique 1

Rwanda     1

Sudan      1

Somalia    1

Togo       1

Uganda     1

Nigeria    1

 Americas 

Canada        18

United States  8

 Asia 

China     8

India     4

Indonesia 1

Nepal     1

 Europe 

Italy    8

France   7

Britain  7

Germany  5

Slovakia 4

Russia   3

Austria  3

Sweden   3

Spain    2

Poland   2

Belgium  1

Ireland  1

Norway   1

Serbia   1

 Middle East 

Israel       2

Saudi Arabia 1

Yemen        1

 Other 

UN passport  1

 TOTAL 

150

No Survivors On Crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737

This file photo, taken on November 28, 2017, shows an Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737-700 aircraft taking off from Felix Houphouet-Boigny Airport in Abidjan.  ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crashed Sunday morning en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew on board, state media reported as African leaders offered condolences.

“We hereby confirm that our scheduled flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in accident today,” the airline said in a statement, later confirming a report by Ethiopia’s FANA Broadcasting Corp that there were no survivors.

“It is believed that there were 149 passengers and eight crew on board the flight,” it said.

The airline has not provided information on passengers’ nationalities but there are reports people from 33 countries were on board. The crash came on the eve of a major, annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme opening in Nairobi.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, said the plane had taken off at 8:38 am (0538 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa by road.

The weather in the capital, according to an AFP reporter, was clear when the brand-new Boeing plane, delivered to Ethiopia last year, plane took off.

The Boeing came down near the village of Tulu Fara outside Bishoftu.

An AFP reporter said there was a massive crater at the crash site, with belongings and airplane parts scattered widely.

Rescue crews were retrieving human remains from the wreckage.

Police and troops were on the scene, as well as a crash investigation team from Ethiopia’s civil aviation agency.

In the Kenyan capital, family members, friends, and colleagues of passengers were frantically waiting for news at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

“I am still hoping that all is fine, because I have been waiting for my sister since morning and we have not been told anything,” Peter Kimani told AFP in the arrivals lounge over an hour after the plane was scheduled to land at 10:25 am local time.

His sister is a nurse who he said had gone to Congo. “She travels a lot on missions.”

“We are still expecting our loved one from Addis… we have just received news that there is a plane that has crashed. We can only hope that she is not on that flight.”

Hoping for the best

Among those waiting, Khalid Ali Abdulrahman received happy news about his son, who works in Dubai.

“I arrived here shortly after 10:00 am and as I waited, a security person approached me and asked me which flight are you waiting for. I answered him quickly because I wanted him to direct me to the arrivals, so I told him Ethiopia, and then he said: ‘Sorry, that one has crashed’.”

“I was shocked, but shortly after, my son contacted me and told me he is still in Addis and did not board that flight, he is waiting for the second one which has been delayed,” Khalid told AFP.

“I am waiting for my colleague, I just hope for the best,” added Hannah, a Chinese national.

African Union commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said he had learnt of the crash “with utter shock and immense sadness.

“Our prayers are with the families of the passengers + crew as authorities search for survivors. I also express our full solidarity with the Govt & people of Ethiopia,” he said on Twitter.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office tweeted it “would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones.”

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was “saddened” by the news, adding: “My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board.”

Mahboub Maalim, executive secretary of the IGAD East African bloc, said the region and the world were in mourning.

“I cannot seem to find words comforting enough to the families and friends of those who might have lost their lives in this tragedy,” he said in a statement.

For its part, the plane’s maker, US giant company Boeing, said it was “aware” of the accident “and is closely monitoring the situation.”

Ethiopian Airlines said it would send staff to the accident scene to “do everything possible to assist the emergency services.”

It would also set up a passenger information centre and a dedicated telephone number for family and friends of people who may have been on the flight, while Kenya’s transport minister said officials would meet and council loved ones waiting at JKIA.

The Boeing 737-800MAX is the same type of plane as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed last October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

The last major accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was a Boeing 737-800 that exploded after taking off from Lebanon in 2010, killing 83 passengers and seven crew.

According to reports, Boeing delivered the plane to Ethiopian Airlines last November.

AFP

Police Fire Tear Gas As Strike Strands Travellers At Nairobi Airport

 

Hundreds of travellers were stranded at Nairobi airport Wednesday, and some were treated for tear gas exposure, as striking workers and police faced off at East Africa’s busiest air traffic hub.

After flights began to be grounded from midnight, passengers were advised not to come to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) — East Africa’s busiest according to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) — until further notice.

However, hundreds were already there, some waiting for many hours.

In the terminals, confusion reigned with little information circulating and police firing tear gas as they moved in to arrest a union official they accused of inciting workers.

Several strikers and would-be travellers were treated on-site for exposure to the blinding, choking spray, and some for small injuries sustained in the chaos that ensued as they tried to escape the fumes.

Stranded passenger Christine voiced the bewilderment of many: “Why are police using unnecessary force with teargas at an airport?”

Travellers were then asked by police to leave the building, and gathered in parking and waiting areas outside the airport.

As the strike passed the 12-hour mark, the situation at the airport calmed somewhat as the first plane — to Mumbai — took off around lunchtime.

But hundreds of travellers were still anxiously awaiting news about their flights amid a heavy security deployment.

The workers, who had not given notice of their labour action beforehand, are angry about the planned partial takeover of the airport, operated by state-run KAA, by national carrier Kenya Airways.

— ‘Sabotage’ —
Transport Minister James Macharia told journalists that workers need not worry about the possible change of ownership.

“What they were fearing is that the proposed merger between KQ (the acronym for Kenya Airways) and KAA will result in job losses but we gave assurances that that will not happen,” he said.

“So this (strike) is completely uncalled for because the deal has not happened.”

The minister added that KAA, with the help of security services and staff from Kenya Airways, were replacing striking staff.

“This strike is illegal. It is sabotage and amounts to a criminal activity that must be punished. That is why the union officials have been arrested for inciting workers to go on strike,” said Macharia.

“They should be aware that this is a security installation, you cannot interfere with a security installation.”

Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KUWA) chief Moss Ndiema was arrested at the airport.

According to the KAA, more than 7.6 million passengers and 313,000 tons of cargo passed through JKIA in more than 111,000 aircraft movements in 2017.

The airport contributes just over five percent to Kenya’s gross domestic product.

Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz said 24 departing flights, and two arrivals, had been affected by the strike, but “we expect the situation to normalise during the day.”

“We are set to resume operations, although the process is a bit slow,” he said.

Operations at Kenya’s two other main airports, at Mombasa in the southeast and Kisumu in the west, have also been affected.

15 Killed In Ongoing Islamist Attack On Kenya Hotel Complex

 

Fifteen people have died in an Islamist attack on an upmarket hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenyan police sources said Wednesday, as fresh explosions and gunfire rang out in the siege which stretched into its second day.

Security forces worked throughout the night to secure the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, spa, restaurant and office buildings, after an attack claimed by Al-Shabaab Islamists on Tuesday afternoon.

At least one suicide bomber blew himself up at the hotel while gunmen sprayed fire before engaging security forces and holing themselves up at the premises as civilians fled or barricaded themselves in their offices awaiting rescue.

“We have 15 people dead as of now and that includes foreigners,” a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Among the dead was an American citizen, a State Department official said.

A second police source confirmed the toll but warned “there are areas not yet accessed but that’s what we know so far.”

After 12 hours trapped inside the complex, a group of dozens of people was freed at 3:30am (1230GMT), according to an AFP journalist at the scene, followed by fresh gunfire and a detonation.

READ ALSO: Police Fire Tear Gas At Protesters In Sudan

“We still believe there are two or three attackers in specific locations,” the first police officer said. “The situation is far from over.”

The second police officer said that at one point they had been sure the attackers had been neutralised after a long period without shooting, however gunfire resumed again after 2am.

Further explosions and gunfire were heard shortly before dawn, with no official word on how many people were still trapped inside.

“There is a floor where they are shooting from, we still believe there are people there,” he said, after reports that a large number of people had fled upstairs.

‘Very confident’ attackers

Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said the attack began with an explosion targeting three cars in the parking lot and a suicide bombing in the foyer of the Dusit hotel.

As the explosion and gunfire rang out in the leafy Westlands suburb, hundreds of terrified office workers barricaded themselves in the complex while some fled.

“We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” said Simon Crump, an employee at an international firm who was hiding with his colleagues.

Crump was among the first wave of people evacuated from the office buildings surrounding the Dusit hotel, after an hour of sustained gunfire.

 

A number of heavily-armed foreign forces, who appeared to be from embassies based in Nairobi, were at the scene alongside Kenyan security officers.

One survivor rescued from the building told a local television station the attackers were “very confident; they were people who knew what they were doing”.

CCTV footage broadcast on television showed four attackers, clad all in black and heavily armed, entering a courtyard in the compound at the start of the assault.

 ‘A flash and a bang’

John Maingi said there had been “a flash of lights and a loud bang” at the Secret Garden restaurant where he works.

“When I peeped outside I saw a human leg which has been cut off. We hid in the room and then some police officers rescued us,” he said.

Reuben Kimani, a barista who was rescued after several hours trapped inside the hotel, said he recognised one of the attackers as a client.

“I knew one of them because he had a big scar on one of his hands,” he said. “I saw them. They shot six of my friends, four didn’t die but two succumbed.”

 Shabaab

The attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali group Al-Shabaab, which has repeatedly targeted Kenya since it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the jihadist group.

The attack at DusitD2 is the first in Nairobi since gunmen stormed the city’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing at least 67 people.

On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.

The Westgate attack resulted in many upscale establishments and shopping centres in the capital — including the Dusit — putting up strict security barriers to check cars and pedestrians.

Several Nairobi establishments popular with westerners announced on social media Tuesday that they had closed for security reasons.

In its statement, the group noted the attack came exactly three years after its fighters overran a Kenyan military base in Somalia.

“This attack on Nairobi hotel came as Kenyans and their media are commemorating (the) El Adde attack,” it said.

The Shabaab claimed it killed more than 200 soldiers in that assault. The government has refused to give a toll or disclose details.

Five Killed In Nairobi Hotel Attack

This image taken from an AFP TV footage shows people in a street as a gunfight was underway following a blast at a hotel and office complex in a leafy Nairobi neighbourhood

 

At least five people were killed Tuesday when an Islamist suicide bomber and gunmen stormed an upmarket hotel complex in Nairobi, in the first such attack in the Kenyan capital in five years.

Gunshots rang out sporadically as night fell in Nairobi, where police combed the hotel and outlying office buildings for survivors while trying to flush out the attackers.

The attack at the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, restaurant and office buildings housing local and international companies, began at 3 pm (1200 GMT) with a massive explosion heard five kilometres (three miles) away at the AFP bureau.

READ ALSO: Explosion, Gunfire Rock Nairobi Hotel

The Al-Qaeda linked Somalian group Al-Shabaab, which carried out a notorious assault on a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013, claimed responsibility, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activities.

“We can now confirm that this criminal activity commenced at about three o’clock in a coordinated fashion and began at I&M Bank with an explosion that targeted three vehicles in the parking lot, and a suicide explosion in the foyer of Dusit hotel,” said Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet.

He said “a number of guests suffered serious injuries” but did not give a figure for any fatalities.

An AFP photographer saw the bodies of five dead, slumped over tables on a restaurant terrace in the complex, while a police source who asked not to be named said he had seen as many as 14 dead.

Elite police forces evacuated terrified workers barricaded in offices after an hour of sustained gunfire as they engaged the attackers.

More than six hours after the attack it was unclear how many people were still hiding inside office buildings or the hotel, owned by Thai giant Dusit Thani Group.

Simon Crump, who works in the complex, said terrified workers had barricaded themselves inside their offices after “several” explosions.

“We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” he told AFP a few hours before he was also evacuated.

“A lot of people ran when the first few explosions happened, there was a mad rush for the exit,” he said.

Boinnet said security forces had contained six of the seven floors of the hotel and were also working to secure “remaining outbuildings in the complex”.

“There still could be armed criminals holed up at the building and our team of special forces are doing their best to flush them out, and all our critical national infrastructure remains on guard,” he said.

– ‘A flash and a bang’ –
John Maingi said there had been “a flash of lights and a loud bang” at the Secret Garden restaurant where he works.

“When I peeped outside I saw a human leg which has been cut off. We hid in the room and then some police officers rescued us,” he said.

Shortly after the attack began flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the parking lot where several cars where ablaze.

Police sirens echoed through the city and two helicopters buzzed overhead while ambulances with flashing lights lined up outside the hotel.

A private security guard at the scene told AFP he had seen four “gangsters” entering the compound.

An AFP reporter saw a bomb disposal squad blow up a car which they said the attackers had driven to the complex.

Meanwhile, the vast upscale Village Market shopping centre in northern Nairobi said on Twitter that it had closed temporarily as a “security precaution.”

Kenyan hospitals put out an urgent call for blood donations for the injured.

– Shabaab –
The attack at DusitD2 is the first in Nairobi since gunmen stormed the city’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing at least 67 people. The attack and ensuing siege lasted around four days.

That assault was also claimed by Somalia’s Shabaab, who have been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu since 2007.

The Westgate attack resulted in many upscale establishments and shopping centres in the capital — including the Dusit — putting up strict security barriers checking vehicles and pedestrians.

The Shabaab targeted Kenya after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the jihadist group.

On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.

In its statement, the Shabaab noted the attack came exactly three years after its fighters overran a Kenyan military base in Somalia.

“This attack on Nairobi hotel came as Kenyans and their media are commemorating (the) El Adde attack,” it said.

The Shabaab claimed more than 200 soldiers died in that assault, while the government has refused to give its own toll or disclose details of the attack.

Shabaab Islamist Group Claims Attack In Nairobi

People leave the scene of an explosion at a hotel complex in Nairobi’s Westlands suburb on January 15, 2019, in Kenya. PHOTO: Luis TATO / AFP

 

The Al-Shabaab Islamist group in Somalia on Tuesday claimed responsibility for an ongoing attack in the Kenyan capital, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activities.

The Al-Qaeda-linked group said it was behind the attack, which has seen a blast and gunfire at the DusitD2 hotel and office compound in the Nairobi suburb of Westlands, according to a brief announcement via its news agency.

 

Explosion, Gunfire At Hotel And Office Complex

A gunfight was underway following a blast at a hotel and office complex in a leafy Nairobi neighbourhood Tuesday, an AFP reporter and a witness said.

A blast at the DusitD2 compound, which includes a hotel and several office buildings housing international companies, was heard from AFP’s offices some five kilometres (three miles) away.

Simon Crump, who works at one of the offices, said workers had barricaded themselves inside their offices after “several” explosions.

“We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” he told AFP, adding that the people were terrified.

Police sirens echoed through the city and a helicopter buzzed overhead.

A reporter sent to the scene said the gunmen and security forces were exchanging gunfire.

“There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire,” whispered another man working at the compound, asking not to be named.

It was not immediately clear whether the incident was a robbery or an attack.

“All police teams have been dispatched to the scene where the incident is. As at now we are treating it as anything, including the highest attack,” police spokesman Charles Owino said by phone.

“All police teams including anti-terror officers are at the scene,” he said.

Flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the parking lot of the compound where several vehicles were on fire, with scores of people fleeing the compound, some of them lightly injured.

The scenes in the Westlands suburb reminded Nairobians of a bloody terrorist attack in 2013 when Islamist gunmen stormed the Westgate mall, killing at least 67 people.

The country faced a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the Islamist Shabaab group, affiliated to Al-Qaeda.

On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.

AFP