Casualties Reported in Attack on Nairobi Hotel Complex

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Gunmen blasted their way into a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday, sending workers fleeing for their lives as others cowered under their desks from an attack claimed by Somali Islamists al Shabaab. "There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire", said one man working at the compound, asking not to be named.

The scenes in the Westlands suburb reminded Nairobians of a bloody terrorist attack in 2013 when Islamist gunmen stormed the Westgate mall, killing at least 67 people.

"The Australian High Commission in Nairobi is making urgent inquiries of local authorities to determine whether any Australians were affected by the attack on the DusitD2 Hotel complex", the spokeswoman said.

The man who only gave his name as Ken said the bodies were at the hotel entrance. An unexploded grenade lay in the lobby, he said.

Witnesses in the Kenyan capital said betweenfour and six armedmen had rushed into the dusitD2 compound, which includes a hotel, restaurants, a spa and several office buildings housing worldwide companies, at about 3pm on Tuesday.

Nairobi suffers from violent robberies but has also been targeted by Somali militants, who killed dozens of people in a shopping centre in 2013 and almost 150 students at a university in 2015.

Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i said at 11pm that all buildings had been secured and scores of people evacuated from the scene. "I have seen a human as I ran out and there is what looks like minced meat all over", said one man who said he ran from the scene, Charles Njenga.

"We are aware that armed criminals are holing up in the hotel, and special forces are now currently flushing them out", said Kenya's national police chief, Joseph Boinnet, describing the assault as a suspected terror attack. The group has asserted that 47 people were killed but it gave no details in a post published by its Shahada news agency.

"It began with an attack at I&M bank with an explosion that targeted three vehicles in the parking lot and a suicide bomb", he said.

Gunfire continued several minutes after the first reports as ambulances, security forces and firefighters rushed to the scene.

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"It is awful. What I have seen is bad".

Elite police forces evacuated terrified workers barricaded in offices after an hour of sustained gunfire as they engaged the attackers.

Somalia's Government has expressed its "strong condemnation" of the deadly attack, saying it "once again reveals the disgusting face of terrorism".

A witness, Robert Murire, said he saw at least two bodies at the scene, along with attackers wearing green and wrapped in ammunition.

The attack comes as the country marks the three-year anniversary of an Al-Shabaab attack on the El Adde military base which killed over 140 Kenyan soldiers.

Unidentified assailants disembarked from at least one vehicle at the security gate and threw grenades at guards as they entered the complex, according to Citizen TV, a local private broadcaster.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it since 2011.

Other people appeared to be taking cover behind fountains and other features in the lush outdoor complex. Dozens of others were hurried away as plainclothes officers went shop to shop in the complex.

The Garissa attack occurred a little in April 2015, 365km northeast of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and resulted in the loss of 148 lives including 142 students.

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