Explosion and shots fired at a complex in Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi Kenya. A current security operation is underway after terrorists attacked the hotel

An upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital came under attack on Tuesday, with a blast and heavy gunfire.

Gunfire has been heard since Kenya's interior minister announced the scene had been secured. Picture: AP Photo/Ben Curtis.

What appears to be plainclothes security forces are seen inching their way toward the scene, guns in hand while helicopters could be heard.

Security forces help civilians at the scene of a blast in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. A mortuary worker told Reuters around midnight (2100 GMT) that 14 people were killed in the attack.

"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 complex in Nairobi includes a large hotel known as DusitD2, banks and offices.

Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab have claimed responsibility for the attack, with a witness reporting seeing gunmen wrapped in ammunition and wearing green.

"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.

The photographer saw five bodies slumped over tables on a restaurant terrace in the complex, which was hit in an attack claimed by Al-Shabaab Islamists.

However, speaking to local television, a spokesperson for the police said they are not ruling out the possibility that it is a militant attack.

At least six people were killed and possibly hundreds more remained trapped inside buildings hours after the incident began.

Simon Crump, who works at one of the offices, said workers had barricaded themselves inside their offices after "several" explosions.

"What happened in Mandera today we did in revenge for what the non-believer government has done to innocent Muslims", Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the group, told Al Jazeera. "Gunshots are coming from multiple directions", he told AFP a few hours before he was also evacuated.

"My colleagues were running everywhere".

"Some armed criminals still holed up in the building and our special forces are, as I said, engaged in that position to flush them out".

Three cars were ablaze by the entrance and a picture of the hotel grounds on Twitter showed what appeared to be a human a leg lying on the path. But a Kenyan police officer who was among the first on the scene said: "There was no time to count the dead but it is true that there are people who are dead".

Flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the compound's auto park where several vehicles were on fire, and scores of people fled the scene, some of them injured.

Ambulances, security forces and firefighters have rushed to the scene, sirens wailing.

The attackers surged into 14 Riverside Drive and fired at security guards, forcing them to open the gates, according to Kenya's Daily Nation online news site.

That assault was also claimed by Somalia's Shabaab, who have been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu since 2007.

Kenya has seen a number of terror attacks in recent years - most notably in areas close to the Somali border and in the country's capital.

Kenya has been battling Al Shabaab for a number of years following its military intervention in Somalia in October 2011 to fight the organisation.

April 2015: Al-Shabab launched an assault on Garissa University College in Kenya, killing 148, mainly students.



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