All eyes and hopes were on him as he led a team of Special Forces into the battle field. He was in charge of the operation that started at 3.00 pm on Tuesday and lasted for close to 21 hours.
He was on the ground, giving constant updates to top national security organ that is headed by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. Kanja took control of the mission, guiding his team through the seven floors that make the Dusit D2 hotel as they combed through every room to ensure the assailants have been floored.
His strategy was “final push” – using all power necessary to overpower the terrorists.
As the clock was edging towards 3.30 am, he called an end to the siege. They had neutralized the terrorists. More than 700 people had been saved from the building, and bullet ridden bodies of four of the al shabaab militia lay sprawled on the floor; killed by the forces.
They lost one officer, Japheth Ndunguja who was fatally wounded.
Benard Nteresho, 14 Riverside security Manager
He had just finished monitoring the repair of the security exit gate when the explosion hit the complex. Another shot followed almost immediately.
“I knew we were in danger, and people had to be saved,” he says.
Having served as a Recce squad officer for almost two decades and as security boss at the complex for six years, he knew that ‘burden on his shoulder was heavy’.
He swang into action and his first thought was to let open the exit gates.
“I rushed to the guards at the gates and ordered them to open them wide. I went back and started shouting for the people to run for their lives,” he says.
He also started calling for reinforcement.
By the time the attackers moved closer and started targeting the exit door, he had managed to evacuate several people who were now across the river near chiromo road.
Amid the danger, the security manager walked back to security officers by sharing with them the masterplan of the building. He spent the entire night guiding the operations in the building he knows so well.
“When I got home, my whole body was aching. I look back at the entire incident and thank God that many lives were saved,” he says.
IT officers, Dusit D2
They are the ones who use their knowledge in technology to ensure security officers could see every floor through the use of CCTV footage that they flipped, turned and expanded to give them clear view.
The team worked through the clock, despite the mounting pressure to expose where the terrorists were hiding.
Ali Kombo, KDF officer
His hand held tightly on his gun. His fingers on the trigger. His eyes fixed on the Dusit building where terrorists were holding people ransom. Behind him, a line of scared civilians clutched on him, some with eyes closed. Their lives depended on him, and he kept assuring them that things will be alright.
“Just keep calm. Follow me, but do not stand. Do not come in front of me,” he kept saying anytime he had a whimper of fear.
Tarus Aoko who was one of the people who trailed behind him explains that at the time when everything was crumbling and uncertainty on whether they will come out alive hang heavy, Kombo, from Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) was composed, and he would occasionally glance back to check if everyone behind him was okay, before shifting his gaze on the building where the Al-Shabaab militants were hiding.
Bernadette Konjalo, Revenue director at DusitD2
Ever since she was a young girl, Bernadette always showed compassion. Her passion was in the hospitality industry, and when she got a job at Dusit D2 hotel, she was elated. When the first shot was fired, Kojalo is said to have sprung into action; guiding guests to the exit, and telling other members of staff where to go.
She was not quick enough and she was felled by a bullet on her back. Her sister Scholastica Kojalo says Bernadette was a gentle soul, and her love, especially towards children made her a darling to many.
Inayat Kassam, licensed gun holder
It was not his first dance with death at the hands of terrorists. He had fought them in 2013 during the Westgate attack, saving many people. The shooting instructor has earned the nickname “superman” for springing into action and whisking away many scared Kenyans into safety.
He is also a licenced gun owner and when he got information on the attack, he went to Riverside 14 drive. He is among the people who were rescuing survivors with bullet wounds who were stranded in the building. His bloody clothes as he carried a woman towards an ambulence has been one of the most shared photos on social media.
They stayed at the scene, rushing to hug relatives who were breaking down at news of loss of their loved ones. They also helped to move survivors to waiting ambulances and stayed at Chiromo mortuary to counsel people who were confronting the reality of sudden loss.
George Kinoti- DCI
He led a team of anti-bomb squad in combing the site for explosives. The teamdusted the car that had been abandoned by the terrorists at the entrance of the hotel and detonated a mock explosion to test if there were explosives there. They also remained on site to ensure the scene is safe from explosives long after the terrorists had been killed.
Musa Yego- head of flying squad
Acted as the liaison man between the public whose relatives were trapped in the complex. He got information and relayed the same to the search and rescue squads that were inside the complex. Hundreds of tenants were rescued in the process.
Security attached to Australian embassy:
The policemen and guards attached to the Australian embassy were among the first ones to arrive at the scene. Their presence slowed down the movements of the terrorists as they exchanged of fire.
Emergency service providers:
Ambulances, fire brigade, personnel from Special Crimes Prevention Unit, and other service providers who responded to the plight of the injured saved lives. Private institutions such as Uber and Taxify also provided free transport to those who wanted to donate blood.