NAIROBI, KENYA — Kenya’s president and top opposition leader issued strong warnings to terrorists who attacked a luxury hotel and office complex Tuesday in Nairobi.
President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed that 14 people were killed in the attack at Dusit D2 complex, and vowed that his government will hunt down the terrorists on Kenyan soil.
“Multiple security efforts are under way to detect, deter and disrupt and defeat any terrorist operatives or groups,” Kenyatta said. “We are also on highest alert and shall remain so. I assure every Kenyan and our foreign visitors that you are safe in Kenya.”
Secretary of Interior Fred Matiangi told reporters Wednesday at the scene of the attack that phase one of the police operation is over. He declined to comment on the number of attackers killed.
“This is a security operation and it is still going on,” he said. “When a security operation is going on as a rule of thumb, you cannot start running sideline comments. We have been able to take out all the attackers who came here and that is all.”
The Islamist militant group al-Shabab, based in Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Authorities have not confirmed that; however, al-Shabab has been linked to previous attacks in Kenya, apparently in retaliation for Kenya’s support of the Mogadishu government.
An official with the Kenyan Red Cross told reporters that 18 people were injured and around 700 were evacuated from Dusit complex Tuesday.
The attack began with explosions, followed by hours of gunfire as police worked to clear the complex.
The president says the objective of the police operation was to rescue those trapped in offices, hotel rooms and other facilities.
“The operational priority of the security services was first and foremost to safeguard civilian lives. They acted swiftly to contain the attackers and methodically evacuate those whose lives were at risk,” Kenyatta said.
The Kenyan president added that his government is launching an aggressive manhunt for all those involved in the attack.
“I convened and chaired our meeting of our national security council. I want to say this — we will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act. We will pursue relentlessly wherever they will be, until they are held to account,” Kenyatta said
Opposition leader Raila Odinga echoed that warning.
“All indications are that as a nation, despite persisting challenges in regard to securing our homeland, we are learning and getting wiser and better with every unfortunate attack,” Odinga said. “Our goal must remain, our ability to completely keep these forces of evil out of our borders and weeding them out of our midst.”
Most of the victims were Kenyan citizens. The U.S. State Department has confirmed one American citizen was among the 14 people killed, and Britain’s Foreign Office said a British man also died.