Kenya Mall Attack: Al Shabab Says Gunmen, Hostages Are Still Alive

Kenya Mall Attack: Al Shabab Says Gunmen, Hostages Are Still Alive

As the hostage situation at Nairobi's Westgate mall entered its fourth day, there were conflicting reports from Kenyan officials, who claim the rescue operation is all but over, and militant group al Shabab, who said on Twitter that their fighters were "holding their ground."

"The hostages who were being held by the Mujahideen inside #Westgate are still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive," one Tweet said. Another reads: "There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the Mujahideen are still holding their ground #Westgate"

Kenya's police chief called al Shabab's claims “propaganda” as Kenya's Interior Minister tweeted that the operation was all but over. “We're very near the end,” he said in a Tweet, adding in another that security forces "continue to neutralize terrorist threat, troops now in mop up operations in the building."

There were also reports in Kenyan media that six of the militants had been killed, but government officials could only confirm the deaths of three. It's believed between 10-15 militants stormed the mall on Saturday, meaning, if Kenyan officials' estimates are correct, 7 to 12 militants remain alive inside.

Al Shabab tweeted what they claim is a photo of two of those militants, captured on a security camera inside the mall.

Kenya's foreign minster, Amina Mohamed, said on Monday that "two or three" of the attackers were Americans, from Minnesota or Missouri. “That just goes to underline the global nature of the war that we’re fighting,” she said in an interview with PBS. A spokeswoman for the US State Department said there was "no definitive evidence of the nationalities or identities of the perpetrators at this time," but added that officials were investigating Mohamed's report.

At least 62 people were killed in the attacks, and this morning Kenyan officials confirmed that three members of their military died from injuries sustained during rescue operations.

[Image via AP]

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Original post by Max Rivlin-Nadler on Gawker

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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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