By John Ndiso and Omar Mohammed
NAIROBI, Jan 16 (Reuters) – At least two groups of people remained trapped inside a Nairobi hotel early on Wednesday where at least 15 were killed in a militant attack the previous day, and security forces surrounded the complex.
As dawn broke, gunfire rang out again and continued sporadically, while guests inside pleaded for help, a first responder told Reuters. An injured paramilitary officer was evacuated in an ambulance.
“The area around 14 Riverside Drive is a Crime Scene … under an active security operation,” police said in a message on Twitter.
The attack on the upscale complex, by at least four gunmen, began shortly after 3 p.m. on Tuesday with an explosion in the parking lot and then a suicide bomb blast in the foyer of the dusitD2 hotel, police said.
Somali militant Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility.
Many of the victims had been dining in the Secret Garden restaurant and lay slumped at their tables, photos seen by Reuters showed.
Eleven Kenyans, an American and a Briton were among the casualties, morgue staff said. Two victims had not been identified.
Hiram Macharia, a marketing executive at LG Electronics, said officers rescued him and some of his colleagues from their office two hours after the attack began. He later learned that one did not survived.
“One of our colleagues went to the top of the building and his body was found there,” he told Reuters.
Blasts and shots had punctuated the night, undercutting assurances from the interior minister late on Tuesday that the scene had been secured and complicating the rescue of scores trapped inside.
Some of those trapped got messages out begging for medical help.
The first responder told Reuters that at least two groups of people remained in the hotel and business complex just before 7 a.m.
Families who went to the Chiromo morgue seeking loved ones were told they could not view the bodies until a forensic investigation had been performed, provoking grief and anger.
One man who only gave his name as David said he was yet to hear from a relative in the hotel complex. His phone went off at around 4 p.m.
The family of a missing 35-year-old man collapsed in the courtyard upon hearing that a body had arrived with his identification papers.
“He is gone, he is gone,” the father repeated into his phone as his mother wrapped a shawl around herself and wept.
Another family arrived, demanding to see whether their relative was there but were told only police had access.
As they argued, an elderly couple arrived in silence, bringing a freshly pressed suit to dress their dead son.
Outside the morgue, two Red Cross ambulances waited, their drivers asleep inside. They would go to the complex to retrieve casualties once it was safe, morgue staff said.