Three days after an abortive coup attempt by the Air Force against the government of President Daniel arap Moi, Kenya's capital of Nairobi is beginning to struggle back to life by day but still lives in fear by night.

Most banks and government offices were in operation again for the first time today, all three of the city's daily newspapers published and a number of shops--those that were not looted--were open.

Many of the offices closed, however, by early afternoon as the exodus to beat the 6 p.m. curfew began. Nairobi, normally a pulsating African capital, is dead by midafternoon.

The first hour after the curfew was marked by sporadic gunfire in the vicinity of the Hilton Hotel downtown--possibly shots in the air to warn curfew violators or just nervous soldiers firing their weapons. There was no sound of returning gunfire.

There is still little information on the reasons for the coup attempt except that it was led by elements in the Air Force. Students at the country's two universities, which have been closed, have also been implicated.

Reports on the number of Air Force rebels arrested vary as widely as the number of casualties. The Nairobi Times newspaper said today that 2,000 had been arrested, which would mean practically every member of the country's Air Force is being detained.

Diplomats and other analysts tend to discount this figure, but say perhaps half the Air Force members are being held.

The fear of the people, however, is well founded. Each day as reports of fighting decrease in this pro-Western country, once regarded as a model African success story, the reports of casualties mount.

The government has given no official figures on deaths, injuries or arrests. First reports indicated that well under 100 persons were killed. The Daily Nation newspaper quoted police and military sources today as saying that 112 Air Force rebels had been killed and about 100 civilians.

There are unconfirmed reports that the city morgue, which allegedly accommodates 500 bodies, is full and that the overflow--60 or 70 bodies--is at a hospital morgue.

There are also reports that 1,000 looters have been arrested. The Voice of Kenya radio said tonight that 50 tons of goods had been looted. In some areas whole blocks are boarded up but other streets were untouched.

Yesterday Moi toured the streets to inspect the damage, thanked the Army for preventing the coup and called on the people to hunt down the rebels, 200 of whom are still believed to be at large.

Today Moi's only public activity was to issue a statement urging his fellow African leaders to attend the Organization of African Unity meeting scheduled to begin in Tripoli, Libya, Thursday.

Many African leaders are threatening not to attend the meeting because of differences over the Western Sahara, where Morocco is fighting the Polisario guerrilla organization for control. Moi did not say whether he would go to Tripoli, but his attendance is considered unlikely in the aftermath of the coup.

Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport reopened today for the first time since early Sunday, but landings and takeoffs were only allowed during daylight hours because of the 6 p.m.-to-7 a.m. curfew.

Since fighting during the coup was mainly limited to Nairobi and the Nanyuki Air Force Base to the north, many tourists fled the capital during the troubles for the Indian Ocean beaches or game parks.