How attack was similar to 2013’s at Westgate

Police officers from General Service Unit (GSU) enter dusitD2 Hotel compound for rescue mission after attack. [Photo: Beverlyne Musili]
The 14 Riverside Drive, the upmarket complex that was attacked yesterday, is not so far from West-gate Mall, which faced a similar attack in 2013.

Described on its website as “an exclusive office park development with unique streetscapes set over five acres of secluded, landscaped gardens,” it is indeed a hallmark of Nairobi’s burgeoning real estate investment culture.

The website paints a rosy picture of an exclusive domain saying: “Designed for flexibility and spread over 6 blocks with state-of-the-art lobbies and public spaces, the development introduces a new level of luxurious quality and design.”

Same script

Just like the Westgate Mall, the complex, sandwiched between the University of Nairobi’s Chiromo Campus and Riverside Park, is associated with affluence and has become one of the most popular hangout joints in the capital.

Owned by the Sanghrajka family, who are the proprietors of the Tile & Carpet Centre business, the complex opened its doors in 2014.

Apart from the dusitD2, which is run by Thai hospitality chain Dusit International, 14 Riverside Drive is home to more than 30 companies, some of them multinational. 

Before it was attacked, Westgate had styled itself as Kenya’s premier shopping mall. Its maze of shops, restaurants, financial institutions and the presence of Nakumatt supermarket as its anchor tenant made the mall tower above the rest in Kenya’s blossoming retail sector.

The terrorists who attacked 14 Riverside Drive yesterday appeared to follow the same script as those who butchered 68 Kenyans five years before at Westgate.  

A witness said the car used by the attackers had been sighted a number of times before it was parked suspiciously on the road.

“I have seen this car parked here several times with its windows rolled up and occupants rarely stepping out,” said a witness who sells second hand clothes next to the university’s Chiromo Campus.

Initial reports from yesterday’s attack said four men arrived at the hotel shortly after 3pm in a car registration number KCN 340E and lobbed explosives at the security guards manning the complex. They then got into the building housing the dusitD2 hotel, shooting indiscriminately.

The Westgate attack on September 21, 2013 was also carried out by four men who arrived at about noon and forced their way to the roof-top parking lot, where a children’s cooking competition was taking place. Cameras in the mall showed the gunmen carrying assault rifles and in civilian wear.

There were additional reports of grenade explosions. What followed was a woeful, disorganised response from security forces that prolonged the siege. 

Yesterday, however, the response from security forces was swift. Within 10 minutes of the gunfire being reported, officers were on sight to join licensed firearm holders and guards from the nearby Australian Embassy, who had responded.

And although the Government is yet to say who is responsible, international news agencies BBC and Al Jazeera last evening announced that the attack yesterday, like Westgate, was carried out by the Al Shabaab. 

“The Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shaabab said it was behind the attack, but gave no details,” reported BBC.

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