President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya announced on Wednesday that a total of 14 people were killed in the terrorist attack on the Dusit hotel in Nairobi.
He said security forces killed all of the attackers. Kenyan police also arrested two suspects connected to the case. The victims included an American businessman who survived al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Kenyatta spoke not long after witnesses said they could still hear gunshots and explosions coming from the hotel, which a heavily armed group of undisguised men assaulted on Tuesday afternoon.
The Red Cross stated on Wednesday that 50 people who were reported missing after the attack remain unaccounted for. At least 30 injured people were evacuated to local hospitals for treatment.
Somalia-based, al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, perpetrated exactly three years after a high-profile al-Shabaab attack on a Kenyan military base in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab’s statement on the attack described the Dusit hotel complex as “one of the most opulent areas of the Kenyan capital,” a place where “offices of international representatives are present.” Analysts said the terrorist group chose its target to get heavy coverage from international media and demonstrate its continued potency as al-Qaeda’s most active affiliate.
“I can confirm that the security operation is over and all the terrorists have been eliminated. 14 people have died. We are grieving as a country this morning,” President Kenyatta said on Wednesday. He said 700 people were safely evacuated from the Dusit complex during the attack.
“We will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning, and execution of this heinous act,” Kenyatta vowed.
“We are a country governed by laws, rules, and regulations, a country that embraces peaceful coexistence,” he said. “I must also state that we are also a nation that never forgets those who hurt our children.”
Kenyan Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti added that two “key suspects” in the case were arrested in different locations, one of them a neighborhood where police believe one of the attackers lived.
“The suspects are providing good information on the incident. They were in contact with the slain men,” Kinoti said. He further announced that police raided the home of one slain terrorist and recovered a partially-assembled bomb, which suggests the killers were planning an even more elaborate attack but were forced to make their move early.
Kenyan police reported preliminary forensic findings that the weapons used in the attack, which included AK-47 rifles, originated in Somalia.
The U.S. State Department confirmed on Tuesday that one of the victims killed in the attack was an American citizen. The UK Daily Mail identified him on Wednesday as businessman Jason Spindler, CEO of management strategy and investment company I-DEV International, which has headquarters in Nairobi. A former Peace Corps volunteer who hailed from Texas, Spindler was working in Building 7 of the World Trade Center when al-Qaeda attacked on September 11, 2001.
According to friends and family, Spindler has been living in Kenya for about five years and was having lunch at the hotel to celebrate his 41st birthday when al-Qaeda’s franchise al-Shabaab attacked.
“Jason was a survivor of 9/11 and a fighter. I am sure he gave them hell,” his brother Jonathan said on Tuesday when confirming his death. “There are no words to describe how our family is feeling but I can say … Jason Spindler, you are and always will be an amazing son, brother and uncle. Rest in peace – we will miss you dearly.”
Jason’s mother Sarah Spindler told NBC News her son was “trying to make positive change in the third world in emerging markets.”
“We all miss him so much. And it’s so sad that such a bright young person is taken away by terrorism,” she said in a telephone interview on Tuesday night.
Another foreigner confirmed dead in the attack was British development professional Luke Potter, who worked for an international charity called Gatsby. The charity released a statement saying it was “shocked and saddened” by Potter’s murder:
Luke had devoted the past ten years of his career to helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. He had worked with us for three and a half years, carrying out assignments across East Africa.
Luke was instrumental in establishing our forestry programme and team in Kenya, and provided crucial leadership, guidance and support to our Tanzanian forestry program and our tea programs in Rwanda and Tanzania.
Luke was respected by all he worked with, bringing huge drive, determination, a relentless work ethic, and a thirst for new ideas to every project. He brought a calm head and his unique sense of humor to every situation. He was deeply committed to his work, to his teams, to Gatsby and to development in Africa. He was our colleague and our friend.
The British Foreign Office confirmed the death of a British/South African dual national in the attack, presumably a reference to Potter, and said another “British person” was “wounded during the attack and is receiving medical attention.”
According to the BBC, the attack began with bombs thrown at parked cars and at least one suicide bomb attack. A member of the British SAS who was in Kenya on a training mission was reportedly involved in the response, along with U.S. Special Forces operators.
One video clip of the attack circulating online is believed to show a U.S. Navy SEAL assisting in the rescue of civilians. The man in the video wears civilian clothing and has his face covered, but appears to be wearing a backpack with a SEAL Team 3 patch.