Hotel Attacks

15 January 2019, Hotel and business complex attacked, Nairobi, Kenya

On 15 January 2019, al Shabaab fighters raided the hotel and office complex at 14 Riverside Drive in Nairobi, Kenya. The hotel in question is the dusitD2 nairobi (written in lower case), a 101-room, five-star hotel located at 14 Riverside Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya.

It is owned by the Dusit Thani Group, a professional, decades old hospitality company, which is based in Bangkok, Thailand. The company has 29 properties, mainly in Asia, but it also has hotels in the Middle East and Africa. Here is a bullet point list of the bare facts of the attack to date:

  • A car of as many as 5-6 al Shabaab fighters drove up to the roadside guard house at 14 Riverside Drive, fired at the guards, and penetrated the grounds, so said a witness who spoke to The Standard.
  • They then made their way down the long driveway to the interior guard house and overran it (this, according to video news footage after the attackers had passed through this area).
  • Immediately past this latter guard house, the fighters made their way into the facility’s parking lot and, either by car bomb, hand thrown explosives, or arson, set three cars alight.
  • Then they forced their way into the dusitD2 and associated businesses, shooting civilians as they went. Witnesses heard explosions, so the attackers might have been throwing grenades or homemade IEDs throughout the compound.
  • Authorities say at least one attacker was a suicide bomber, and he detonated in the foyer or lobby of the hotel, say initial reports from News24 and the Associated Press.
  • Photographic analysis by Muir Analytics of the carnage presented here by Daily Active Kenya shows what appears to be the seat of a blast from a suicide bomb, grenade, or other explosive device. There is a scorched area of about 25 X 25 feet, (note the discolored brown vs. green grass) around what appears to be a small crater on the lawn and a light debris field, which extends to roughly 50 X 50 feet. A human limb, possibly a leg, appears to be in the debris field. The latter indicates that this might have been the site of a suicide bomb blast, but more evidence is necessary to draw a more solid conclusion.
  • An eyewitness who took the above-mentioned picture said the blast happened outside the Secret Garden Restaurant, which is immediately behind the dusitD2. Satellite footage of the 14 Riverside Drive complex compared to the bomb blast photo mentioned here corroborates the location of the blast.
  • As the attack unfolded, the Kenyan police and military responded quickly (per news footage), setting up a perimeter and evacuating multitudes of people from the compound. Counter terrorism units arrived shortly thereafter and engaged the attackers in the hotel, floor by floor.
  • As of late evening, on 15 January, the situation was considered contained by the government, and close to being secure.
  • Al Shabaab claimed responsibility through its radio station, Andalus.
  • Initial casualty rates by CBS News were an estimated 14 killed and “many” wounded, and these figures are expected to change.
  • As of 11:00 pm UK time on 15 January 2015, the Dusit’s website offered no information on the attack.
  • The attack happened on the third anniversary of the Battle of El Adde (15 January 2016), when a massive al Shabaab light infantry force of approximately 500 attacked a Kenyan military base in El Adde, Somalia, which was part of the Kenyan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). There was, and still is, heavy controversy over the actual Kenyan casualty rates, damage done, and potential ground lost. The general story is that al Shabaab suffered some 330 killed, but they considered it a success because of their death cult doctrine concerning jihadi fighters ascending to paradise/heaven if killed in battle, and also because they killed 150 Kenyan soldiers, wounded 12, and captured 11. None of these figures are confirmed, however, and the attack is generally perceived by some pundits (rightly or wrongly) as a massacre of the Kenyan military.

An analysis of the Nairobi hotel/business complex attack will follow as more details emerge.

Sources and further reading:

IG Boinnet asks Kenyans to be Calm as Police try to flush out Terrorists from Dusit Hotel,” Daily Active Kenya, 15 January 2019.

14 Riverside Drive attack: What we know so far,” The Standard, 15 January 2019.

WATCH: Somali officials reportedly in Nairobi hotel at time of attacks; progress made in containing the situation,” News24 via the Associated Press, 15 January 2019.

BREAKING: Suspected Bomb Explodes along Riverside Drive in Nairobi,” Daily Active Kenya, 15 January 2019.

“WATCH: Somali officials reportedly in Nairobi hotel at time of attacks; progress made in containing the situation,” News24 and Associated Press, 15 January 2019; and “WATCH: Survivors of Nairobi hotel attack describe horror,” News24 and Associated Press, 15 January 2019.

Security footage shows gunmen looking for victims in Kenya terror attack,” CBS News, 15 January 2019.

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