Kenya's police chief Joseph Boinnet says six more bodies were found at the luxury hotel targeted by Al Shabab, the militant group that says the attack was in retaliation to US declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Kenyan policemen secure the street near the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya, January 16, 2019.
Kenyan policemen secure the street near the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya, January 16, 2019. (Reuters)

The death toll from a bomb and gun attack by Al Shabab militants on an upmarket hotel complex in Nairobi has risen to 21, Kenya's police chief said on Wednesday.

"We wish to inform that, as of this evening... six other bodies were found at the scene and one police officer succumbed very suddenly to his injuries," Joseph Boinnet told reporters.

Earlier, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that all attackers who had stormed an upmarket hotel complex had been "eliminated" after an almost 20-hour siege.

TRT World's Natasha Hussain has more. 

"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 700 civilians rescued from the building.

TRT World spoke to journalist Timothy Otieno for more from Nairobi.

In retaliation for US' Jerusalem move

Al Shabab – the Somalia-based militant group that is allied to Al Qaeda – claimed responsibility for the carnage at the DusitD2 hotel complex, which includes bars, restaurants, offices and banks and is in Nairobi's well-to-do Westlands neighbourhood with many American, European and Indian expatriates. 

The group said it carried out the deadly attack in retaliation for US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the SITE monitoring group said.

"It is a response to the witless remarks of the US president, Donald Trump, and his declaration of Al Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel," the group said.

Earlier, Kenya's interior ministry tweeted that all buildings had been secured and there was no further threat to the public.

The attack at the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, spa, restaurant, and offices for local and international companies, began at 1200GMT on Tuesday with a massive explosion, heard five kilometres away at the AFP bureau. 

Gunshots rang out sporadically as police moved in, trying to rescue survivors and flush out the attackers. 

After 12 hours trapped inside the complex, a group of dozens of people was freed at 0030GMT (3:30 am) Wednesday, according to a journalist on the scene, followed by fresh gunfire and a detonation.

By mid-morning Wednesday, it was still unclear whether the assault was fully contained, or what the final death toll might be.

Unconfirmed fatalities

"It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible," said Charles Njenga, who ran from a scene of blood, broken glass, burning vehicles and pillars of black smoke.

Kenyan police chief 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.

He said "a number of guests suffered serious injuries".

One photographer saw the bodies of five dead, slumped over tables on a restaurant terrace in the complex. An official at the MP Shah hospital in Nairobi told Citizen TV seven wounded had been admitted, one of whom had died.

Eleven Kenyans, a US citizen and a Briton were among the casualties, morgue staff said. Two victims had not been identified.

Al Shabab asserted that 47 people were killed but its Shahada news agency post gave no details.

A police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, said bodies were seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs, but "there was no time to count the dead."

In this grab taken from security camera footage released to the local media, heavily-armed attackers walk in the compound of a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya on January 15, 2019.
In this grab taken from security camera footage released to the local media, heavily-armed attackers walk in the compound of a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya on January 15, 2019. (Security Camera Footage / AP)

'Very confident' attackers 

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 as elite security forces engaged the gunmen.

Authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen.

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, speaking to a local television station, said the attackers were "very confident; they were people who knew what they were doing".

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

Authorities did not say how many attackers there were — or what happened to them.

'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 had recognised one of the attackers as a client he had served coffee to in recent days.

"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."

Several Nairobi establishments popular with westerners, such as the J's and Alchemist bars and the Village Market shopping centre, announced on social media that they had closed for security reasons.

Al Shahab attacks in Kenya

The attack at DusitD2 is the first in Nairobi since gunmen stormed the city's Westgate shopping mall in 2013.

That assault was also claimed by Al Shabab, fighting since 2007 to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.

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

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

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

Source: TRTWorld and agencies