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Kenya's Leader Vows to Hunt Down Terrorists After Deadly Attack


Kenyan security forces walk away from the hotel complex at the scene of the attack in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 16, 2019.

Kenya's president on Wednesday vowed to track down terrorists who staged a deadly assault the day before on a hotel-and-office complex in an upscale suburb of Nairobi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said all attackers had been "eliminated" and warned his government was launching an aggressive manhunt for all those involved. Police said at least 21 people had been killed at the capital's Dusit D2 complex, where surveillance video showed at least four gunmen walking through the parking lot as the siege began in midafternoon.

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"I convened and chaired our meeting of our national security council," Kenyatta said in a nationally televised address. "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.''

The Islamist extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which began with an explosion outside a bank and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby.

Previous attacks

Authorities have not confirmed the group's claim. However, al-Shabab has been linked to previous attacks in Kenya, including the 2013 attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall, which killed 67, and a 2015 attack at Garissa University College, which killed 148.

An official with the Kenyan Red Cross told reporters that 18 people had been injured and roughly 700 evacuated from the Dusit complex by security forces.

The dead included two Somalis, a British man and an American.

The American killed was identified by family members as Jason Spindler, who worked in Nairobi as chief executive officer of I-DEV International, a business strategy and investment firm. His father, Joseph, told the Associated Press that his son frequently ate at the hotel cafe, where he was shot.

Kenya's Interior Minister Fred Matiangi speaks to the media at the scene of an extremist gunmen attack in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 16, 2019.
Kenya's Interior Minister Fred Matiangi speaks to the media at the scene of an extremist gunmen attack in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 16, 2019.

A graduate of New York University's law school and of the University of Texas-Austin, Spindler had worked in finance but joined the Peace Corps in Peru after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. He would have turned 41 next week.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that my brother, Jason Spindler, passed away this morning during a terror attack in Nairobi, Kenya. Jason was a survivor of 9/11 and a fighter. I am sure he gave them hell!" Jonathan Spindler said in a Facebook post.

Two of the other victims, Abdalla Sheikh Mohamed and Feisal Ahmed Rashid Dahir, were also having lunch when they were killed on the terrace of a restaurant in the complex.

Both men had worked on the Somalia Stability Fund, a project to bring peace and prosperity to Somalia through various community initiatives, their employer said.

Dahir, 31, was born in Nairobi and married last year, his father, Ahmed-Rashid Haji Dahir, told VOA's Somali service. He said his son's wife was seven months pregnant.

The elder Dahir went to the mortuary at nearby Nairobi University after another son phoned him with the bad news. "I was still hoping that I will find my son alive," the father said, "but late in the night they brought in eight bodies, including my son and his colleague, Abdalla."

'A normal lad'

Abdalla Mohamed was 27. On his Twitter account, he described himself as "just a normal lad from Kenya."

Mohamed's uncle, Yasin Jama Ismail, told VOA Somali the young man was helping his siblings with school fees.

Ismail said he could not understand the alleged al-Shabab attackers' motivation.

"The ones who brought this pain to me are carrying our name, Islam. I am also a Muslim," he said. "The question I'm asking: Why are they killing human beings?"

In his address, Kenyatta said security forces were taking steps to prevent further attacks. "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."

Opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition reacts at the Chiromo mortuary, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 16, 2019.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition reacts at the Chiromo mortuary, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 16, 2019.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for Kenya's cohesion, saying that "divisions are what terrorists thrive on."

"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. He said the nation's objective must continue to be keeping "these forces of evil out of our borders and weeding them out of our midst.''

VOA Somali service's Harun Maruf contributed to this report from Washington.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
     
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
     
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon
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