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

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.

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Terrorist attack at Nairobi, Kenya hotel
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Terrorist attack at Nairobi, Kenya hotel
Security forces help civilians flee the scene as cars burn behind, at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Security forces point their weapons through a shattered door behind which an unexploded grenade lies, at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Imagen de video, de una explosión en un complejo de hoteles en la capital de Kenia, Nairobi, el 15 de enero del 2019. (AP Photo/Josphat Kasire)
Kenya Security personnel at the scene of an attack on a hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. 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 police officer said he saw bodies, "but there was no time to count the dead." (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
An injured person with gun wounds is brought to the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Sayyid Abdul Azim)
Security forces are seen at the scene of a blast in Nairobi, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019.Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
People take cover after an attack on a hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. 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 police officer said he saw bodies, "but there was no time to count the dead." (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
Civilians huddle between cars as the sound of gunshots are heard at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Kenya armed soldiers after an attack on a hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. 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 police officer said he saw bodies, "but there was no time to count the dead." (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
Kenya medics put an injured person in ambulance after a blast in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. 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 police officer said he saw bodies, "but there was no time to count the dead." (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
A member of the security forces is seen reflected in a window as he looks at bullet-holes, at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Rescued civilians gather at a safe place after a blast in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. 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 police officer said he saw bodies, "but there was no time to count the dead." (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
Civilians flee the scene at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. An upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital came under attack on Tuesday, with a blast and heavy gunfire. The al-Shabab extremist group based in neighboring Somalia claimed responsibility and said its members were still fighting inside. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Security forces are seen at the scene of a blast in Nairobi, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. An upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital came under attack on Tuesday, with a blast and heavy gunfire. Witnesses and police at the scene called it a terror attack. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Civilians flee the scene at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Kenyan security forces walk from the scene as continued blasts and gunfire could be heard early Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Kenya's capital on Tuesday, setting off thunderous explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables in an attack claimed by Africa's deadliest Islamic militant group. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Media surround Kenya's Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i as he gives a statement at the scene of the attack Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Kenya's capital on Tuesday, setting off thunderous explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables in an attack claimed by Africa's deadliest Islamic militant group. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Kenya Red Cross personnel helps a woman reacting after learning of a family member killed during a recent terrorist attack Wednesday, Jan. 16 2019, at the Chiromo Mortuary, Nairobi, Kenya. An upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital came under attack on Tuesday, with a blast and heavy gunfire. The al-Shabab extremist group based in neighboring Somalia claimed responsibility and said its members were still fighting inside (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
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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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