Troops 'in control of Nairobi mall'
on 23/09/2013 17:56:06
Four thunderous explosions reverberated through a Nairobi neighbourhood in the morning, raising fears for the lives of any remaining hostages still being held by al-Shabab, a Somali group linked with al-Qaida, in the Westgate Mall.
Three attackers had been killed in the latest fighting and more than 10 suspects arrested. Eleven Kenyan soldiers were wounded in the running gun battles. By evening, Kenyan security officials were claiming the upper hand.
"Taken control of all the floors. We're not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them," police said on Twitter.
Kenya's interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the evacuation of hostages "has gone very, very well" and that Kenyan officials are "very certain" that there are few if any hostages left in the building.
He also revised the death toll to 62. Kenyan officials earlier said 59 people have died since the siege began on Saturday, while the Red Cross had put the toll at 68, then lowered it to 62, saying some bodies had been counted twice.
Kenya Chief of Defense forces General Julius Karangi said fighters from an array of nations took part in the attack. "We have an idea who these people are and they are clearly a multi-national collection from all over the world," he said.
He said Kenyan forces were in charge of all floors inside the mall, though terrorists could still be hiding inside. Earlier witness reports had indicated that a woman was among the estimated 10 to 15 attackers. He said that instead some male attackers had dressed up like women.
On Sunday Kenyan officials announced that "most" hostages had been rescued. But no numbers were given. Kenyan officials have never put a number on the hostages but have said preserving their lives was a priority.
Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including British, French, Canadians, Indians, a Ghanaian, a South African and a Chinese woman.
From neighbouring Somalia, a spokesman for al-Shabab said the gunmen had been ordered to "take punitive action against the hostages" if force was used to try to rescue them.
As the crisis surpassed the 48-hour mark, video taken by someone inside the mall's main department store when the assault began emerged showing frightened shoppers crouching as long and loud volleys of gunfire rang out.
Al-Shabab is an extremist Islamic terrorist force that grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a dictator in 1991. Its name means "The Youth" in Arabic, and it was a splinter youth wing of a weak Islamic Courts Union government created in 2006 to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the East African nation.
It is estimated to have several thousand fighters, including a few hundred foreigners. Some are from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Others are young, raw recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.