Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kenyan President Kenyatta Says Nearly 70 Known Dead in Westgate Standoff

Kenyan president: Nairobi siege over, 61 civilians, 5 terrorists dead

Published time: September 24, 2013 16:48

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the siege in Nairobi’s Westgate mall was over. A total of 72 people were killed in the attack, including five terrorists, the president said, declaring three days of national mourning.

Kenya has "ashamed and defeated" the attackers, President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a television address on Tuesday night. "Our country is safe," he added, urging people to remain calm.

He said he could not confirm intelligence reports that suggested Americans and a British woman were involved in carrying out the attack. Forensic experts are now working to identify the nationalities of the terrorists, he said.

The attack has left a total of 72 people dead, including 61 civilians, six members of the Kenyan security forces and five terrorists, Kenyatta said. A total of 240 people were either killed or injured. Three stores in the mall have collapsed, leaving more bodies trapped.

Three days of national mourning were declared.

Despite Kenyatta saying that the situation at the Westgate shopping center was under control, ITV News reported that the sound of gunfire and explosions could still be heard coming from the mall.

Firefighters still haven’t been allowed to extinguish a fire that has been raging in the mall for more than 24 hours.

The search and rescue operation has been suspended for the evening to resume Wednesday, with the death toll from the attack expected to rise.

On Saturday, a group of militants assaulted the Westgate mall in Nairobi, a popular destination for the city’s expatriate community, capturing dozens of hostages and wounding many others.

The counter operation by security forces to free the captives began at dawn on Monday, with a volley of explosions and heavy fire at the scene. Shortly after the Kenyan Interior Ministry reassured the public that its forces were "in control" of the situation, the fighting, sporadic gunfire and explosions restarted.

On Tuesday morning, the Interior Ministry said the forces were "combing the mall floor-by-floor, looking for anyone left behind. We believe all hostages have been released."

However, the Al-Shabaab terror group, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, was still saying its fighters were holding out inside the mall.

“There are [a] countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the Mujahideen are still holding their ground,” Al-Shabaab wrote on its Twitter account.

Al-Shabaab claimed the hostage siege was a response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

The terrorists demanded that Kenyan troops be pulled out of Somalia immediately, and threatened further attacks on the Nairobi shopping mall.

"We will make them suffer what we suffer in southern Somalia,” Ali Mohamud Rage, an Al-Shebaab spokesman, said in a video released by the terrorists. “We are giving a warning to the Kenyan government and to all those who support it.”

Among the victims of the attack are citizens from the US, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, China, South Korea, India, South Africa, the Netherlands and Ghana. Five Americans were injured.

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