Four Blasts at Kenya Mall; Officials Say Few Hostages Remain

By: AP Email
By: AP Email
Kenya

MGN Online

UPDATE Monday 11:57AM:
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Kenya's interior minister says officials are "very certain" that there are few, if any, hostages left in an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi that was attacked by terrorists with links to al-Qaida over the weekend.

He says the evacuation of hostages has gone "very, very well."

And the country's chief of defense forces says Kenyan troops are in charge of all floors inside the mall -- though he says terrorists could still be hiding inside.

Four explosions at the mall today were followed by volleys of gunfire, and then a thick, dark column of smoke for about 90 minutes. Top Kenyan officials said two hostage-takers had been killed. They were described as being part of a "multi-national collection from all over the world."

The Kenyan interior minister has revised the death toll from the attack to 62. Kenyan officials earlier said 59 people have died since the siege began on Saturday.

Yesterday, Kenyan officials announced that "most" hostages had been rescued, but no numbers were given. They've never said how many hostages they believed were being held.

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UPDATE Monday 5:30AM
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Kenya's interior minister says two Islamic extremists were killed Monday as military forces waged an operation to rescue hostages inside an upscale mall in Nairobi. A top military official said he believes the attackers are "a multinational collection from all over the world."

After four large blasts rocked the Westgate Mall on Monday, sending out large plumes of smoke, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said Monday that the two militants died from "our morning activities."
Kenya Chief of Defense forces Gen. Julius Karangi said fighters from an array of nations participated in the attack claimed by al-Shabab, a Somali group allies with al-Qaida.

"We have an idea who this people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," he said.

The minister said some hostages have been released and those remaining are minimal.

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The Kenyan military remained in a tense standoff with Islamic extremists Sunday, as the toll rose to 59 dead, including children, and 175 wounded in the attack at an upscale mall, a Kenyan minister said.

Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where hostages are being held by militants. The radicals attacked the mall Saturday and remained inside throughout the night.

Kenya's Red Cross said in a statement citing police that 49 people had been reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could form the basis of the number of people held hostage.

"The priority is to save as many lives as possible," Joseph Lenku said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the upscale Westgate mall. Kenyan forces have already rescued about 1,000 people, he said.

Ten to 15 attackers remain in the mall and Kenyan forces control the security cameras inside the shopping center, Lenku said. Combined military and police forces surrounded the mall in the Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi, which is frequented by foreigners and wealthy Kenyans. An Associated Press photographer saw Kenyan soldiers carry into the mall a rocket-propelled grenade, an extremely heavy weapon for an indoor hostage situation.

Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters at the mall that he has been told officials couldn't determine the exact number of hostages inside the mall.

"There are quite a number of people still being held hostage on the third floor and the basement area where the terrorists are still in charge," Odinga said.

Somalia's al-Qaida-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack in which they used grenades and assault rifles and specifically targeted non-Muslims. The rebels said the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into Somalia and threatened more attacks.

Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including British, French, Canadians and Chinese.

Nineteen people, including at least four children, died after being admitted to Nairobi's MP Shah hospital, said Manoj Shah, the hospital's chairman. "We have at least two critical patients currently, one with bullets lodged near the spine," he said.

The hospital continued to receive patients Sunday, he said.

Britain's Foreign Office said at least three U.K. nationals were killed in the attack and warned that the number of U.K. nationals confirmed as killed is "likely to rise as further information becomes available."

A 38-year-old Chinese woman was killed in the shopping mall "terror attack," the Chinese Embassy in Kenya said in a statement Sunday. Her son was injured in the attack and in a stable condition in hospital, according to the statement posted on the embassy's website.

Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor died after being injured in the attack, Ghana's presidential office confirmed.

Kenya's presidential office said that one of the attackers was arrested on Saturday and died after suffering from bullet wounds.

Trucks brought in a fresh contingent of soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces early Sunday.

"Violent extremists continue to occupy Westgate Mall. Security services are there in full force," said the United States embassy in an emergency text message issued Sunday morning.

Britain's Foreign Office said that Foreign Secretary William Hague has chaired a meeting of Britain's crisis committee and sent a rapid deployment team from London to Nairobi to provide extra consular support.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the attacks and "expressed their solidarity with the people and Government of Kenya" in a statement.

There was some good news on Sunday, as Kenyan media reported that several people in hiding in the mall escaped to safety, suggesting that not everyone who is still inside is being held by al-Shabab.

Cecile Ndwiga said she had been hiding under a car in the basement parking garage.

"I called my husband to ask the soldiers to come and rescue me. Because I couldn't just walk out anyhow. The shootout was all over here — left, right— just gun shots," she said.

Nairobi resident Paolo Abenavoli said he is holed up in his apartment only 100 meters from the mall with a direct view of the entrance. He said he could see a dozen or more security forces inside a first floor restaurant.

"The battle is on now," Abenavoli told The Associated Press by telephone as the fresh gunfire broke out Sunday.

Security forces had pushed curious crowds far back from the mall. Hundreds of residents gathered on a high ridge above the mall to watch for any activity.


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