Kenyan security forces have “eliminated” the terrorists who stormed an upscale hotel compound and killed at least 14 people in an attack claimed by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday.
More than 700 civilians had been safely evacuated from the dusitD2 complex, he added, after an attack that echoed a 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping center that killed 67 people.
“The security operation at the dusit complex is over, and all the terrorists eliminated. As of this moment, we can confirm that 14 innocent lives were lost through the hands of these murderous terrorists,” Kenyatta said, looking drained and grave.
He did not specify how many terrorists took part in the terrifying 20-hour siege. Surveillance footage showed at least four.
“From the means available to the security services and judicial arms, we will continue taking every step to make our nation inhospitable to terrorist groups and their networks,” added Kenyatta, the son of Kenya‘s founding father.
The east African nation is a hub for expatriates and has often been targeted by al Shabaab in revenge for sending troops to help protect the weak, U.N.-backed government in Somalia.
The attack on the dusitD2 hotel began shortly after 3 p.m. on Tuesday with an explosion in the parking lot and then a suicide bomb blast in the foyer, police said.
At least two groups of people had still been trapped inside as dawn broke, and gunfire continued to ring out.
Eleven Kenyans, an American and a Briton were among the casualties, morgue staff said. Two victims were not identified.
Some victims had been dining in the Secret Garden restaurant and lay slumped at tables, photos seen by Reuters showed.
According to its website, the complex is home to offices of international companies including Colgate Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical and SAP, as well as the dusitD2 hotel, part of Thai group Dusit Thani.
Kenya is a base for hundreds of diplomats, aid workers, businessmen and others operating around the region.