The Red Cross on Thursday said 19 people remain unaccounted for, two days after Somali militants attacked a hotel complex in Nairobi, killing no fewer than 21 people. Al Shabaab, a Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate fighting to impose strict Islamic law, said it carried the assault on the upscale dusitD2 compound over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A woman cries after identifying the body of a relative at the Chiromo mortuary in Nairobi, Kenya on January 16, 2019 after a blast followed by a gun battle that rocked the upmarket hotel complex the day before.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on January 16, 2019 that all Islamists who had stormed an upmarket hotel complex had been “eliminated” after an almost 20-hour siege that left several dead. “I can now confirm that… the security operation at Dusit is over and all terrorists have been eliminated,” Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation. He said several people had been killed and 700 civilians rescued from the building, but did not clarify if people were still hiding in the complex.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had said on Wednesday that a 20-hour siege had ended with security forces killing all the Somali militants who had stormed the hotel complex, driving hundreds of people into terrifying escapes. The Red Cross also on Wednesday afternoon put the number of those unaccounted for at 50. In a statement some hours later, it said the number of people still unaccounted for had dropped to 19. Kenya, the East African hub for multinational companies and the UN, became a frequent target for al-Shabaab after Kenya sent troops into neighboring Somalia in 2011 to try to create a buffer zone along its border. In a two-page statement claiming responsibility for the attack, al-Shabaab did not spell out why it had chosen to hit Kenya over Trump’s December 2017 decision on Jerusalem. It said the attack was “a response to the witless remarks of U.S. President, Donald Trump, and his declaration’’. It also said that it was targeting “Western and Zionist interests worldwide and in support of our Muslim families in Palestine’’. “This senseless act is a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat radical Islamist terrorism,’’ a White House National Security Council spokesman said in a statement. The bloody bodies of five attackers were broadcast across social media as Kenyatta announced the end of the siege, which echoed a 2013 al-Shabaab assault that killed 67 people in the Westgate shopping centre in the same district. “Sixteen Kenyans including a policeman, an American survivor of Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S., and a British development worker were among the dead in the hotel complex,’’ Nairobi Police Chief, Joseph Boinnet, said.