A huge blast followed by a gun battle rocked an upmarket hotel and office complex in Nairobi in an attack claimed by Somali group Al Shabab. Officials gave no figures on the dead and wounded.

Kenyan security forces aim their weapons up at buildings as they run through a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
Kenyan security forces aim their weapons up at buildings as they run through a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP)

A least one person was killed and four others wounded after Al Shabab militants attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital on Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighbourhood. 

The five patients were brought to M P Shah Hospital and one of them died, said Toseef Din, the facility's chief operating officer. The Red Cross said four hospitals had received casualties. 

The complex in Nairobi's Westlands neighborhood includes a large hotel known as DusitD2, along with banks and offices.

Still trapped

Some family members say their loved ones are still trapped inside a Nairobi hotel complex even after Kenyan authorities said all buildings were secure following the deadly attack.

"I have also spoken to my brother just now and we are exchanging text messages," says a woman who gives her name only as Nelly. "He is in there and he has told me they are hiding with over 10 other people." She says he works in a building next to the hotel.

"Why is the government saying they have rescued them?" she asks.

Gunfire has been heard since Kenya's interior minister announced the scene had been secured.

Calvin Kerich says he has been in touch with his cousin, another employee who is still trapped at the scene.

TRT World's Natasha Hussain has more.

No clarity on death toll

A Kenyan police officer said 15 bodies have been taken to the morgue after the attack. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

An AFP photographer saw five bodies slumped over tables on a restaurant terrace in the complex.

A witness to the attack also said he saw five bodies. 

The man who only gave his name as Ken said the bodies were at the hotel entrance. 

He said other people were shouting for help and "when we rushed back to try rescue them, gunshots started coming from upstairs and we had to duck because they were targeting us and we could see two guys shooting."

Officials, however, gave no details of the death toll.

It was a "co-ordinated" operation that included a suicide bombing in the foyer of a luxury hotel, Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said.

"We can now confirm that this criminal activity commenced at about three o'clock [1200 GMT] 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," he said in a statement on television.

Al Shabab claims responsibility 

The Somalia-based group that carried out the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi immediately claimed responsibility for the assault and said its members were still fighting inside.

"We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operation is going on. We shall give details later," said Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group's military operations spokesman.

TRT World spoke with Nairobi-based journalist Tim Otieno for latest on the ongoing attack.

'It's terrible'

"It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible. I have seen a human as I ran out and there is what looks like minced meat all over," said one man who said he ran from the scene, Charles Njenga.

Another man, who did not give his name, said he hid in an office.

"I have been hiding. My colleagues were running everywhere," he said, breathing heavily.

"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 neighbouring building said. She also heard two explosions, she said.

"We are under attack," another person in an office inside the complex told Reuters news agency, then hung up.

Witnesses and police at the scene called it a terror attack.

One survivor said he hid himself inside a fridge as attackers fired bullets around. 

Cars set ablaze

Three cars were ablaze by the entrance and a picture of the hotel grounds on Twitter showed what appeared to be a human a leg lying on the path.

Nairobi suffers from violent robberies but has also been targeted by Somali militants, who killed dozens of people in a shopping centre in 2013 and nearly 150 students at a university in 2015.

Anti-terrorism unit rushed to site

Owino said that "we have sent officers to the scene, including from the anti-terrorism unit, but so far we have no more information."

Ambulances and security forces were rushed to the scene, and what appeared to be plainclothes security forces were seen inching their way toward the scene.

The attack immediately reminds many Kenyans of the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi in 2013, when Al Shabab militants burst into the luxury shopping centre, hurling grenades and starting a days-long siege that left 67 people dead.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies