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Posts tagged ‘Wild Land of Kenya’

Death toll in Nairobi attack climbs to 21, plus 5 attackers

January 17, 2019

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The death toll from an extremist attack on a luxury hotel and shopping complex in Nairobi climbed to 21, plus the five militants killed, police said Wednesday in the aftermath of the brazen overnight siege by al-Shabab gunmen. Two people accused of facilitating the attack were arrested.

The number of those killed at the DusitD2 complex rose with the discovery of six more bodies at the scene and the death of a wounded police officer, said Joseph Boinnet, inspector-general of Kenyan police. Twenty-eight people were hurt and taken to the hospital, he said.

In a televised address to the nation earlier in the day, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the all-night operation by security forces to retake the complex was over and that all of the extremists had been killed.

“We will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act,” he vowed. In an attack that demonstrated al-Shabab’s continued ability to strike Kenya’s capital despite setbacks on the battlefield, extremists stormed the place with guns and explosives. Security camera footage released to local media showed a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a grassy area in the complex, the flash visible along with smoke billowing from the spot where he had been standing.

Of the civilian victims, 16 were Kenyan, one was British, one was American and three were of African descent but their nationalities were not yet identified, police said. Al-Shabab, which is based in neighboring Somalia and allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility. The Islamic extremist group also carried out the 2013 attack at Nairobi’s nearby Westgate Mall that killed 67 people, and an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that claimed 147 lives, mostly students.

While U.S. airstrikes and African Union forces in Somalia have degraded the group’s ability to operate, it is still capable of carrying out spectacular acts of violence in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s campaign against it.

The bloodshed in Kenya’s capital appeared designed to inflict maximum damage to the country’s image of stability and its tourism industry, an important source of revenue. The government said late Tuesday that buildings were secure. However, gunfire continued into Wednesday morning, and dozens of trapped people were rescued overnight. Several loud booms were heard Wednesday as teams sought to clear the complex of booby traps and other explosives.

Kenyatta’s announcement that the security operation was complete came about 20 hours after the first reports of the attack. The Kenyan Red Cross said about 50 people were unaccounted for. But many of those were believed not to have been in the complex during the attack.

Ken Njoroge, CEO of a company in the DustiD2 complex that offers mobile banking services, said he was unable to locate several employees. “It’s very difficult for the families because the passage of time only makes the problem bigger,” he said.

The American killed in the attack was identified as Jason Spindler, co-founder and managing director of San Francisco-based I-DEV International. Spindler’s father, Joseph, said his son worked with international companies to form business partnerships in Kenya that would boost local economies.

The Houston-raised Spindler had a brush with tragedy on 9/11: He was employed by a financial firm at the World Trade Center at the time of the 2001 terrorist attack but was running late that morning and was emerging from the subway when the first tower fell, according to his father. He became covered in dust and debris as he tried to help others, the elder Spindler said.

In the Nairobi attack, a man who gave only his first name, Davis, described how he had escaped with colleagues by fleeing down a fire escape. “It’s a traumatic experience. It shakes you,” he said. Still, Davis said he was impressed by the “inner strength” and compassion of people who helped each other in the midst of danger.

His own thoughts, he said, were: “Get people out and get out yourself. That’s it.”

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Kenya says gunmen are killed in hotel attack; 14 victims die

January 16, 2019

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — All the gunmen who staged a deadly attack on a luxury hotel and shopping complex in Nairobi were killed, Kenya’s president said Wednesday, declaring an end to the brazen overnight siege that underscored the ability of al-Shabab extremists to strike despite military setbacks.

Fourteen “innocent lives” were lost in the attack that began on Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation. “We will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act,” Kenyatta vowed in announcing that the all-night operation by security forces to retake the DusitD2 complex was over.

Security footage showed at least four heavily armed men in military-style garb took part in the attack, an assault marked by explosions and heavy gunfire. Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved, but “all the terrorists have been eliminated.”

Al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility. The Islamic extremist group also carried out the 2013 attack at Nairobi’s nearby Westgate Mall that killed 67 people, and an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that claimed 147 lives, mostly students.

While U.S. airstrikes and African Union forces have degraded the group’s ability to operate, it is still capable of carrying out spectacular acts of violence in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s campaign against it in Somalia.

The attacks in Kenya’s capital appear designed to inflict maximum damage to the country’s image of stability and its tourism industry, an important source of revenue. The government said late Tuesday that buildings were secure. However, gunfire continued into Wednesday morning, and dozens of trapped people were rescued overnight. Several loud booms were heard Wednesday as teams sought to clear the complex of booby traps and other explosives.

Kenyatta’s announcement that the security operation was complete came about 20 hours after the first reports of the attack. The Kenyan Red Cross said about 50 people were unaccounted for. But many of those were believed not to have been in the complex during the attack.

Ken Njoroge, CEO of a company in the DustiD2 complex that offers mobile banking services, said he was unable to locate several employees. “It’s very difficult for the families because the passage of time only makes the problem bigger,” he said.

Most of the victims were believed to be Kenyan, though an American and a Briton were among the dead. San Francisco-based I-DEV International confirmed that the American was Jason Spindler, the company’s co-founder and managing director.

Jason Spindler’s father, Joseph, said his son worked with international companies to form business partnerships in Kenya that would boost local economies. A man who gave only his first name, Davis, described how he had escaped with colleagues during the attack by fleeing down a fire escape.

“It’s a traumatic experience. It shakes you,” he said. Still, Davis said he was impressed by the “inner strength” and compassion of people who helped each other in the midst of danger. His own thoughts, he said, were: “Get people out and get out yourself. That’s it.”

Extremists attack hotel in Nairobi; al-Shabab claims role

January 15, 2019

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Extremists launched a deadly attack on a luxury hotel in Kenya’s capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the complex. A witness said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance alone.

Al-Shabab — the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group that carried out the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead — claimed responsibility. “It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible,” said Charles Njenga, who ran from the bloody, glass-strewn scene.

The coordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests, said Kenya’s national police chief, Joseph Boinnet.

Authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen believed holed up inside. Well after nightfall, more than five hours after the attack began, Boinnet said the counter-operation was still going on.

It was not clear how many attackers laid siege to the complex, which includes the DusitD2 hotel, along with bars, restaurants, banks and offices and is in a well-to-do neighborhood with large numbers of American, European and Indian expatriates.

Boinnet did not disclose the number of dead. However, a Kenyan police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media said that bodies were seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs, but “there was no time to count the dead.”

Also, a witness who gave his name only as Ken said he saw five bodies at the entrance. He said that other people were shouting for help and “when we rushed back to try to rescue them, gunshots started coming from upstairs, and we had to duck because they were targeting us and we could see two guys shooting.”

Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear. Associated Press video from inside the hotel showed Kenyan security officers anxiously searching the building and scared workers emerging from hiding while gunfire could still be heard. Some women climbed out of windows. One man got up from the floor where he appeared to be trying to hide under a piece of wood paneling, then showed his ID badge.

As officers searched luxury fashion displays, wounded people were carried away on stretchers. Like al-Shabab’s Westgate Mall attack, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners living in the country. It came a day after a magistrate ruled that three men must stand trial in connection with the Westgate Mall siege. A fourth suspect was freed for lack of evidence.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia since 2011. The al-Qaida-linked group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya, which has been targeted more than any other of the six countries providing troops to an African Union force in Somalia.

In the Westgate Mall massacre, al-Shabab extremists burst into the luxury shopping center, hurling grenades and starting a dayslong siege. In 2015, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on Kenya’s Garissa University that killed 147 people, mostly students. Tuesday’s violence also came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.

Gunfire could be heard for hours after Tuesday’s attack began. Several vehicles burned, sending black smoke rising over the complex. Some people ducked behind cars, screaming, while others took cover behind fountains and other features at the lush complex.

Ambulances, security forces and firefighters converged along with a bomb disposal unit, and vehicles were cordoned off for fear they contained explosives. Police said they blew up a car that had explosives inside. An unexploded grenade was also seen in a hallway at the complex.

Security forces hurried out a large group of women, one of them still in curlers. Dozens of others were rushed to safety as plainclothes officers went shop to shop in the complex. Some people held up their hands to show they were unarmed.

A Kenyan intelligence official said the country had been on high alert since November, with information about potential attacks on high-profile targets in Nairobi. The official was not authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Somali diplomat who likewise spoke on condition of anonymity said Somali officials were in the hotel for meetings at the time of the attack and several were feared to still be inside. Despite the years of bloodshed, the Kenya-Somalia border remains porous, with al-Shabab extremists able to easily bribe their way across, according to a U.N. panel of experts.

The hotel complex in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood is about a mile (2 kilometers) from Westgate Mall on a relatively quiet, tree-lined road in what is considered one of the most secure parts of the city. The hotel’s website says it is “cocooned away from the hustle and bustle in a secure and peaceful haven.”

On Monday, the hotel promoted its spa by tweeting: “Is your new year off to a rough start?”

Associated Press writer Abdi Guled in Nairobi contributed.

Kenyan opposition figure says he was drugged and deported

March 29, 2018

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan opposition politician alleged he was drugged and deported to Dubai early Thursday after his attempt to enter Kenya led to him being detained in an airport toilet for more than a day.

Miguna Miguna, targeted in a Kenyan government crackdown amid lingering election tensions, was deported even after a court ordered authorities to release him, lawyer Cliff Ombeta said. Police at the airport roughed up lawyers and forced them to leave when they tried to serve the court order, said another lawyer, James Orengo.

Miguna said in a Facebook post that authorities broke into the airport toilet where he had been held and forcibly injected him with a substance and he passed out. He said he regained consciousness when the Emirates flight arrived in Dubai.

“I will and must return to Kenya as a Kenyan citizen by birth as various courts have ordered,” he wrote. There was no immediate response from Kenyan authorities, though Kenya’s immigration department retweeted a post calling on the public to ignore a rumor that Miguna had been sedated or drugged.

The deportation ended the Nairobi airport drama in which Miguna posted from what he called “Toilet at Terminal 2,” saying he had been detained in the “filthy” facilities at the country’s main airport with food or access to lawyers.

Hours before he was deported, a High Court judge declared Kenya’s interior minister, national police chief and permanent secretary for immigration in contempt of court for disregarding an order to immediately release Miguna, said another lawyer, Nelson Havi.

Justice George Odunga ordered the officials to show up in court Thursday morning or be jailed. When they failed to appear, the judge fined $2,000 each for contempt of court. He did not order them jailed because even “if they can’t obey the orders of this court with such impunity” he doubted that junior officials would act on warrants to arrest them.

Miguna had been deported to Canada last month in a crackdown on politicians who attended the mock inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga to protest President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election. A court later ordered that Miguna’s Kenyan passport be restored and that he be allowed to return.

However, when Miguna arrived on Monday at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, plainclothes officers tried to hustle him onto an outbound plane, witnesses said. That failed when he protested. Miguna later posted statements on social media saying he had been “detained inside a tiny and filthy toilet” in one of the terminals. “I have not eaten. I have not taken a shower. I have not been given access to my lawyers, family members and physicians.”

Miguna could not appear in court as ordered because his entry into the country was still being processed, a lawyer representing Kenya’s attorney general, Japheth Mutinda, told the court on Wednesday. The airport confrontation came two weeks after a surprise meeting between opposition leader Odinga and Kenya’s president as they announced a new initiative to heal this East African nation after months of sometimes deadly election turmoil.

Odinga had argued that Kenyatta lacked legitimacy because his initial Aug. 8 re-election victory was nullified by the Supreme Court over “irregularities and illegalities.” The repeat election had a low turnout as Odinga boycotted it, citing a lack of electoral reforms.

Miguna was at Odinga’s side when he took an oath as the “people’s president” at the mock inauguration. The government responded by arresting opposition politicians.

Kenya President and opposition leader meet to unify country

March 09, 2018

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s president and opposition leader said they met for talks Friday, months after the presidential elections sparked turmoil as the opposition charged there was electoral fraud.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga launched a new initiative to unify the country as their rival parties largely divide the country along tribal lines, raising fears of ethnic violence.

It’s not known if demands by Odinga for new elections were discussed and journalists were not allowed to field questions when the announcement was made. The meeting did not happen as the result of pressure from Western countries, there was no external pressure on the two leaders from western countries, specifically the U.S, for the leaders to hold the talks ahead U.S. Rex W. Tillerson’s three-day visit beginning Friday. “This is a purely domestic initiative,” Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said.

Kenyatta and Odinga met publicly at a funeral service where they shook hands earlier this year, but they did not have talks. Odinga said Kenya has never dealt with the challenges “that our diversity (different tribes) was always going to pose to our efforts to create a prosperous and united nation … The time has come for us to confront and resolve our differences. These differences are becoming too entrenched.”

Odinga’s and Kenyatta’s fathers were allies in the struggle for Kenya’s independence from British colonial rule and then became adversaries. Now President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga have extended the family rivalry by ethnic allegiances and personality politics.

The two men, who also faced off in a 2013 election marred by opposition allegations of vote-rigging, are vying for power in East Africa’s economic hub that plays a key role in the Western-backed fight against neighboring Somalia’s Islamic extremists.

For many observers, the historical divisions between the Kenyatta and Odinga dynasties and the ethnic groups they represent cloud the promise of Kenya’s democracy. On Friday, President Kenyatta said he and Odinga had reached an understanding “that this country of Kenya is greater than any one individual. And for this country to come together, leaders must come together.”

Odinga pressed a lawsuit challenging Kenyatta’s victory in last year’s August election and the Supreme Court ordered a new election. Odinga boycotted the repeat election in October, saying adequate electoral reforms had not been made.

On Jan. 30 Odinga held a protest event which was a mock inauguration in which he was sworn in as the “people’s president.” The government reacted by shutting down some broadcasters and arresting some participants.

Thousands gather in Kenya for opposition ‘swearing in’ event

January 30, 2018

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s government cut transmission of three TV channels airing live broadcasts of the “inaguration” of opposition leader Raila Odinga as alternative president Tuesday in front of thousands, after months of deadly election turmoil.

The attorney general has warned that such a protest act challenging the official president amounts to treason. The Kenya Editor’s Guild said in a statement Monday that President Uhuru Kenyatta “expressly threatened to shut down and revoke the licenses of any media house” that aired live broadcasts of the opposition’s event.

A huge crowd of Odinga’s supporters gathered Tuesday at Nairobi’s main park to attend the event. Police were withdrawn without explanation at Uhuru Park. A heavy police presence remains in the capital city’s slums, which are opposition strongholds.

Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who is Odinga’s deputy, said his police security had been withdrawn ahead of the protest event. The U.S. has advised Odinga against the so-called inauguration, as Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub, tries to move beyond months of deadly election turmoil. Police had vowed to block opposition supporters from attending the event leading to fears of more civilian deaths. Dozens of Kenyans have died in anti-government protests in recent months.

Rights advocates accuse Kenyatta of veering toward dictatorship and accuse his administration of continuously violating Kenya’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms including those of assembly and expression.

Odinga claims he won the presidential election despite the electoral commission’s official declaration that Kenyatta was the victor. The Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s August win after Odinga challenged it, claiming that hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s computer system and changed results in favor of Kenyatta.

In the ruling, the first time a court had overturned a presidential election in Africa, the court cited irregularities and illegalities. It also said it ruled against Kenyatta because the commission refused to open its computer system for court scrutiny to dispel Odinga’s claims.

The court ruled the results from the August election were “null and void” and ordered a fresh vote in October which Kenyatta won after Odinga boycotted, citing a lack of electoral reforms. On Friday, Kenya’s opposition released what it called “authentic” election results showing Odinga won the August vote, but it refused to say how it obtained the information from the electoral commission’s computer servers.

Kenya’s electoral commission has called those results “fake.” Between the two elections the government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has said at least 92 people were killed and dozens of others were sexually assaulted. Most were opposition supporters who went on the streets to protest Kenyatta’s re-election.

Kenyatta Sworn in for Second Term as Kenya President amid Opposition Outcry

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in on Tuesday for a second term as president of Kenya as the opposition planned to hold a rally to protest the vote outcome.

Kenyatta won a repeat presidential election on October 26 that was boycotted by opposition leader Raila Odinga, who said it would not be free and fair.

The Supreme Court nullified the first presidential election, on August 8, over irregularities.

His swearing in for a second five-year term brought rapturous celebrations from his supporters as riot police sealed off an area where the opposition planned a rival gathering.

“I … do swear … that I will always truly and diligently serve the people of the Republic of Kenya,” Kenyatta said.

Before he arrived, a military band in gold and blue uniforms serenaded heads of state from Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Zambia and other nations as they arrived at the stadium where the ceremony took place.

More than 60,000 Kenyatta supporters, many clad in the red and yellow Jubilee party colors and carrying Kenyan flags, filled the stadium benches.

Thousands of others waited outside. Some, chafing at the restrictions, overwhelmed police and streamed in. Officers were forced to fire teargas to control them.

The extended election season has divided Kenya, a Western ally in a volatile region, and blunted growth in East Africa’s richest economy.

Odinga’s supporters, many drawn from poorer parts of the country, feel locked out of power and the patronage it brings.

Political arguments often have ethnic undercurrents, with Odinga’s supporters pointing out that three of the country’s four presidents have come from one ethnic group, although the country has 44 recognized groups.

But such arguments seemed far from the happy crowds at the celebration, who cheered wildly as Kenyatta was sworn into office and as he received a 21-gun salute.

“I’m sure Uhuru will be able to bring people together and unite them so we can all work for the country,” said Eunice Jerobon, a trader who traveled overnight from the Rift Valley town of Kapsabet for the inauguration, before the disturbance.

But Odinga supporters say such talk of unity is tantamount to surrender. They accuse the ruling party of stealing the election, rampant corruption, directing abuse by the security forces and neglecting vast swathes of the country, including Odinga’s heartland in the west.

“A return to the political backwardness of our past is more than unacceptable. It is intolerable … This divide cannot be bridged by dialogue and compromise,” Odinga’s National Super Alliance opposition alliance said in a statement.

The opposition planned to hold a prayer meeting in the capital on Tuesday, saying it wanted to commemorate the lives of Odinga supporters killed during confrontations with the security forces over the election period.

A witness said one person was shot dead as Kenyan police tried to block opposition supporters from holding the memorial.

More than 70 people have been killed in political violence this election season, mostly by the police. Such killings are rarely investigated. Human rights groups and others say nearly 100 people have been killed since the election that was nullified by the Supreme Court.

A Reuters team at the scene of the planned rally said the area had been sealed off by seven truck loads of police in riot gear. Two water cannons were standing by and a helicopter hovered overhead.

Police began firing teargas in nearby residential areas two hours before the rally was due to start, apparently attempting to prevent opposition supporters from gathering.

Several roads were blocked by burning tires, rocks, glass and uprooted billboards. Police shot in the air to disperse anyone trying to gather.

But Dennis Onyango, a spokesman for Odinga, told Reuters on Tuesday morning they were still planning to hold the rally.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1097286/kenyatta-sworn-second-term-kenya-president-amid-opposition-outcry.

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