The Somali jihadist group behind a deadly terror attack in Kenya said Wednesday the assault was tied to US President Donald Trump’s support of Israel.
Al-Shabaab, a Somali organization linked to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack at Nairobi’s upscale DusitD2 hotel complex, in which 14 people were killed.
In a statement, the group blamed Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“The Mujahideen carried out this operation … [as] a response to the witless remarks of US President Donald Trump, and his declaration of Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel,” the statement read, according to Reuters.
According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist groups, al-Shabaab released a photo of one of the attacker’s wearing a headband with text related to Jerusalem.
9) #Shabaab, just as opportunistic as it is dangerous, uses its #Nairobi attack to capitalize on Palestine issue by pointing out one attacker’s bandana reading “heading to Quds [#Jerusalem],” stating the attack “was directly related to” #Palestine and Trump’s support for Israel pic.twitter.com/0K2705IDDR
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) January 16, 2019
Trump has been a vocal supporter of Israel since taking office and in December 2017 recognized Jerusalem as the country’s capital, a move that was widely condemned in the Muslim world.
Jerusalem is home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
On Wednesday, Kenya’s president said security forces killed the Islamic extremist gunmen who took part in the assault on the luxury hotel and shopping complex.
“All the terrorists have been eliminated,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in announcing an end to the overnight operation to secure the complex in the capital, Nairobi.
In a televised address, Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved. He said more than 700 people were evacuated during the security operation and urged Kenyans to “go back to work without fear,” saying the East African country is safe.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard while scores of people were rescued at daybreak during what police called a “mopping-up” exercise. A new blast was heard in the afternoon as witnesses said security forces were making a sweep of the complex for any explosives.
Surveillance video showed the attack that began Tuesday afternoon involved at least four armed men.
DusitD2 houses bars, restaurants, offices and banks and is in Nairobi’s well-to-do Westlands neighborhood with many foreign expatriates.
Most of the victims were Kenyans, a mortuary attendant said.
The US State Department confirmed that an American citizen was among the dead, and the company I-DEV International confirmed that its co-founder, Jason Spindler, had been killed. The British high commissioner in Kenya said at least one British national had been killed, without giving details.
Spindler, who is Jewish, had previously survived the 9/11 attacks, according to his family.
The coordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests, said Kenya’s national police chief, Joseph Boinnet.
Associated Press video from inside the hotel showed Kenyan security officers searching the building and scared workers emerging from hiding while gunfire could be heard. Some climbed out a window by ladder. One man got up from the floor where he appeared to be trying to hide under a piece of wood paneling, then showed his ID.
Like the 2013 attack at the Westgate Mall claimed by al-Shabaab, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners. It came a day after a magistrate ruled that three men must stand trial in connection with the Westgate Mall siege.
Al-Shabaab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it since 2011. Tuesday’s violence came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.
The group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya. In the deadliest attack, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that killed 147 people, mostly students.
The latest carnage demonstrated al-Shabaab’s continued ability to carry out spectacular acts of bloodshed despite a dramatic increase in US airstrikes against it under Trump.