“Large Explosions” Reported at Kenyan Mall During 3rd Day of Standoff

There were reports of “large explosions” and gunfire as Kenyan forces continued their operation to free the remaining hostages in Nairobi's Westgate mall. In the three days since the attack began, 62 people have been killed, with at least another 175 injured, including many children. Two of the alleged terrorists are now confirmed dead.

David Kimaiyo, Kenya's Inspector General of the National Police, tweeted that Kenyan forces were able to rescue several hostages during the most recent operation, nothing that “very few are remaining.”


The explosions were reportedly caused by Kenyan police attempting to force their way into the building. "It is us who caused the explosion, we are trying to get in through the roof,” a security official told Reuters. Another Kenyan official told Reuters that much of the smoke was from militants burning mattresses inside the mall.


Speaking to the New York Times on Monday, Col. Cyrus Oguna, a spokesman for the Kenyan Defense Force, said the building was mostly secure. “Most areas of the building are now in the control of K.D.F .,” he said. “We know the number [of hostages] cannot be more than 10 right now.”

Al-Shabab, the group that has claimed responsibility for the attack, disputed Oguna's account, reportedly writing on Twitter: "As the operation gathers momentum inside #Westgate, the Mujahideen are for the 3rd day still in full control of the situation on the ground."

And Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shabab's spokesman, said earlier attempts at a rescue were unsuccessful.

"Israelis and Kenyan forces have tried to enter Westgate by force but they could not," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said in an online audio statement. "The mujahedeen will kill the hostages if the enemies use force."

The Red Cross puts the official death toll from the attack at 69, though Kenyan officials say only 62 were killed. (UPDATE: The Red Cross has changed their count to 62). The Red Cross also said at least 63 people have been reported missing.

[Image via AP]

Standoff in Kenya: 59 Dead as Hostages Remain Held in Terror Attack

In the largest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombings of two American embassies, masked gunmen associated with the Somali militant group al-Shabab stormed an upscale mall, killing at least 59 people and taking an unknown amount hostage.

After a tense standoff overnight, with armed forces surrounding the mall, any attempt to engage the terrorists has been placed on hold while authorities try to determine where and how many hostages they have. In a Twitter post, al-Shabab has said there will be no negotiations with the Kenyan government, the New York Times reports.

At noon Saturday, around 10-15 gunmen burst into the Westgate mall, a popular destination for wealthy Kenyans and foreign visitors. After reportedly instructing all Muslims to leave, the gunmen began firing on civilians, leaving a horrifying scene with shoppers taking cover and wheeling out the wounded in shopping carts. By Saturday night, bodies littered the steps of the monument to Kenya's relative prosperity. French, Chinese, British, Ghanaian and Canadian citizens have been reported as among the dead.


As the attack reached its 24th hour, Kenyan interior minister Joe Lenku stressed that any further operations would have to be "very, very delicate." Kenyan forces will soon attempt to free the hostages being held by the Muslim fighters, who have vowed to fight to the death. Al-Shabab claims that there are 36 hostages in the mall.


Civilians are still escaping from the mall more than a day after the initial attack. Cecile Ndwiga tells the BBC that she had spent the day hidden under a car in the parking garage, because "the shootout was all over - left, right."

Al-Shabab has claimed that the attack was in retaliation for Kenya's military presence in Somalia. Kenyan armed forces have repeatedly attacked al-Shabab forces close to the Kenyan border, where 4,000 Kenyan troops are stationed in southern Somalia.

In a speech on Saturday night, Kenyan president told citizens that Kenya would remain “as brave and invincible as the lions on our coat of arms.” He then admitted that he had lost close family members in the attack.

Using methods similar to the 2008 hotel attack in Mumbai, the gunmen quizzed victims on their Muslim beliefs, making them pray and answer questions about the religion. If they failed to answer correctly, they were killed.

[Associated Press]

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