By Fran Blandy, AFP/Nairobi
Kenyan police aided by bomb experts and sniffer dogs yesterday resumed their search of the Nairobi hotel complex struck by Islamists as police arrested nine more suspects over the attack which left 21 dead and 28 injured.
A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were confident there were no more people trapped inside the hotel or surrounding office buildings after the 20-hour assault unleashed on Tuesday, during which some 700 civilians were rescued.
“We are confident that we have no more people there,” the officer told AFP, “but in a situation like this, you are not done until you are done.”
“We are back in with sniffer dogs, and bomb experts are checking through because yesterday we found grenades left by those people.”
Police warned the public there may be loud controlled explosions as they continued their sweep of the hotel.
Five gunmen with the Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group Shebaab attacked the DusitD2 hotel and office complex on Tuesday afternoon.
Chilling CCTV footage showed one of the attackers lingering in front of the terrace of the Secret Garden restaurant before blowing himself up.
Four other attackers were shot dead by police during the operation to secure the hotel.
Police said yesterday they had arrested nine suspects, in addition to the two arrested on Wednesday, including a man initially thought to have been among the dead attackers.
Ali Salim Gichunge was rounded up after a raid at his house in the Ruaka suburb on Wednesday where he lived with his wife Violet Kemunto Omwoyo who is also being held by police.
“He is linked to the attack but he is not among the dead,” a police source said.
“His car was used and he had hosted the attackers. His house in Ruaka was used in the planning, that is why he is very important to us in this investigation.
“It is a breakthrough for us. With his car on site, everyone believed he must be dead, but the description from neighbours and his wife has led to his arrest.”
The other suspects include men picked up in the coastal city of Mombasa and western Kenya who were all communicating with “associates” in Somalia.
The police source earlier said detectives had discovered a “huge hole dug in one of the rooms where guns were stored.”
“Neighbours have told us the couple was planning to move out because they had even put up their items for sale through the community’s social network.”
The Standard newspaper said Omwoyo had written: “We are moving out of Nairobi this week” on her ad selling clothes and furniture.
Among the victims who died in the attack were two ethnic Somali Kenyans who worked on a project called the Somalia Stability Fund, a Kenyan football blogger and a policeman responding to the scene.
An American working for a consulting and investment firm, who survived the 9/11 attacks in the United States, and a dual British-South African development worker were also among those killed.
Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper hailed the “sweet victory over terrorism” as praise poured in for the swift and professional response from security services.
This stood in stark contrast to the scorn heaped on disorganised police and army officers who staged a chaotic intervention when Shebaab attacked the Westgate mall in 2013, leaving 67 dead.
“There was a sense of triumph despite adversity,” read the newspaper’s editorial. “Security teams were well-co-ordinated under the General Service Unit; there was a centralised chain of command...clearly lessons have been learned.”
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