Attack on Nairobi’s commercial offices and hotel compound

Key Facts

  • 21 people were killed in the attack
  • More than 700 people were rescued from the complex
  • It has been confirmed that a British and US citizen are among the dead
  • The attack occurred on the third anniversary of the al-Shabaab attack on the AMISOM El Adde military base in southern Somalia that killed over 150 people.
  • It comes as U.S. military ramps up airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia
  • Al Shabaab clearly remains capable of carrying out massive attacks in Somalia and surrounding countries


Please note that the below report is based on Halliday Finch’s interpretation of events.

  • At 1518hrs EAT on 15th January 2019 suspected [and later confirmed] terrorists, initiated a ‘complex attack’ on commercial offices and hotel compound in the Westlands district of the Kenyan capital.
  • Multiple global brands use this facility as their East African headquarters.
  • One of the terrorists detonated his suicide vest in a public restaurant at the centre of the complex called the Secret Garden – killing at least 5. He was heard before the explosion, speaking in very pure coastal/Tanzanian kiSwahili saying “where are you? Where are you? I can’t see you”.
  • Al Shabaab, the Somali jihadist fundamentalist group, claimed responsibility for the attack within 15 minutes of it starting.
  • Security camera footage showed four armed men, with full ammunition vests, entering the complex via the front gate, throwing a grenade at vehicles parked at the front gate causing them to catch fire and explode and then entering the buildings and shooting any occupants they found.
  • The Halliday Finch consultant confirmed seeing 6 bodies on the footbridge across the river to the East of the complex, shot whilst trying to make an exit. There was a lady on the footbridge who had been shot in the leg and was being slowly dragged off the bridge by one heroic unknown man. Using hand gestures, the man warned the
  • Halliday Finch personnel that two of the terrorists were at the end of bridge, just on the other side of the wall from the consultant.
  • The terrorists proceeded to make their way to the Dusit hotel, which is believed to be their ‘redoubt’.
  • General Service Unit (GSU) officers went from building to building clearing out as many civilians as they could. Those escorted out were asked to go in a line and link hands. All those evacuated were assembled into a holding area.
  • The only building they were unable to clear was the Grosvenor Building, which was immediately opposite the Dusit hotel and in clear line of site of the terrorists. At 1910hrs it was confirmed that a large number of civilians were still stranded inside the Grosvenor building. It is reported that a grenade was thrown down a stairwell in the building and that all the fire exits were locked.
  • Gun fire went on throughout the night, with the occasional grenade being thrown out of the hotel windows. Pistol and rifle fire was heard at 2009hrs and a further explosion was heard at 2038hrs.
  • Kenyan and international special forces (SF) set up in Grosvenor house.
  • Those present at the scene at 1700hrs were the Recce Squad (police), the Spear team (military)– part of the US embassy response, unconfirmed reports of international Special Forces, the Kenya Red
  • Cross and a number of private security firm representatives and professional armed civilians
  • At least 50 people were released by Kenyan SF at 0430hrs 16th January from the Grosvenor building.
  • At 1100hrs EAT on 16 January – sources confirmed that all the attacking militants have been killed.

On the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2018, Kenya ranked 19 on the Global Terrorism index with a score of 6.11 (10 = high levels of terrorist activity 1 = no terrorist activity). To put this in perspective, the United Kingdom was ranked 28th with a score of 5.61 and the United States was ranked 20th with a score of 6.06. In 2014, Kenya ranked 12th on the GTI rating.

Al Shabaab has committed several attacks in Kenya. The most brutal of these was an attack on the University college in Garissa that killed 148 people in April 2015 and a 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall that killed at least 67 people. The mall is located in the same suburb of Nairobi as the 14 Riverside Complex

Despite the government’s willingness to tackle security in Kenya and the progress made over the last three years – the security situation in the country has remained fragile, exacerbated by instabilities in Somalia.

It is not yet clear whether this latest attack could indicate a new trend towards increased terrorist activity in Kenya but it is clear, the government has still not gained control over extremist groups. Until official reports give more information on what happened, foreign nationals should exercise increased caution and remain vigilant at all times particularly in public areas frequented by expatriates. You should also be aware of official reports on terrorist activity. These may be underplayed in order to protect the country’s tourist industry which was affected badly during and after the escalation of attacks in 2014.

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