Blasts rock Westgate mall - VIDEO - Daily Nation

Security forces move to end Westgate mall siege as death toll rises to 62

Monday September 23 2013

By NATION TEAM
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By AGENCIES
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Multiple blasts rocked Westgate Mall on Monday as the siege on the shopping centre taken over by terrorists continued.

The government also confirmed that 62 people (the Red Cross put it at 69) had been killed and 175 injured since Al-Shabaab militants stormed one of Nairobi’s biggest shopping malls on Saturday.

The terrorists are holding an unknown number of people hostage in the four-storey building.

Internal Security ministry last evening said that 10 suspects had been arrested in connection with the Westgate Mall attack.

“We can confirm that three terrorists have been killed so far, a few others suffered injuries,” the ministry said in a Twitter post, adding that 10 bodies had been retrieved from the mall in the last 24 hours.

On Monday, heavy smoke billowed into the sky following the explosions that started around 1.18pm. Reporters near the scene heard as many as 10 explosions. Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku said the terrorists had set mattresses in Nakumatt Supermarket ablaze to distract security officers hunting them down. It was “an attempt to escape,” he said.

By the time of going to press, the fire was still raging.

After the blasts, gunfire erupted inside the mall as security agents took on the militants in a bid to rescue the hostages.

More military trucks and ambulances also rushed to the mall.

Sporadic gunfire was heard throughout the early morning hours after officials said late on Sunday night that they would end the deadly siege overnight.

Reports indicated two men arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were being questioned in connection with the attack.

Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said security personnel had rescued some hostages before the explosions broke out.

“Very few hostages are remaining. We are also closing in on the attackers,” Mr Kimaiyo tweeted early yesterday morning.

Israeli and Kenyan Special Forces are working with officers from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations in the assault on areas of the mall still occupied by the terrorists as the siege enters the fourth day Tuesday.

It is estimated that there are between 10 and 15 terrorists in the mall. Mr Lenku said 10 security personnel had been injured.

Businesses in the vicinity of the mall remained closed on Monday. At nearby Sarit Centre, workers were asked to go home.

Peponi Road remained closed and the Interior ministry asked civilians to keep off Mwanzi Road, Forces Lane and Ring Road Parklands.

“Only emergency services allowed. Stay away for your own safety,” the ministry warned.

Mr Lenku said the operation was taking long because the government wanted to make sure the hostages were safe.

“Most of the hostages who were at the mall have been evacuated and very few were still in the building,” he said. He added that some of those trapped were not under the control of the terrorists.

Although he could not tell the exact number of those being held, Mr Lenku said the list of missing persons had reduced drastically.

He said the number of those admitted to hospital had reduced from 175 to less than 50.

“We encourage Kenyans to remain calm. There’s no reason for alarm. Our gallant forces are in control,” he said.

IN CONTROL

He said security forces were in control of all the floors at Westgate Mall and that terrorists could be hiding in some stores.

Mr Lenku cautioned Kenyans against spreading false information on events at Westgate on social media and other outlets.

He said that none of the terrorists was a woman as alleged by some survivors, claiming further that the terrorists had only disguised themselves as women.

Chief of General Staff Julius Karangi said the attack was not a ‘local event.’

“They can surrender because we have no intention of going back. We are aware of their nationalities and even their number,” Gen Karangi said, giving an indication that the Saturday attack was not orchestrated by Al-Shabaab alone.

Addressing journalists in Nairobi, Gen Karangi said: “We are fighting global terrorism.”

Oshwal centre which has been used to provide first aid to the injured or traumatised was less busy on Monday.

Mr Ashok Halai, the St John Ambulance in-charge for Nairobi, told the Nation “only one or two cases had been brought in.”

The KDF spokesman, Col Cyrus Oguna, said that many of the freed hostages were suffering from dehydration.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in retaliation for the involvement of Kenyan forces in Somalia.

Five Americans are among the wounded, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. There are no reports of any US casualties, Ms Harf said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his annual weekend with the Queen at Balmoral Castle in Scotland to return to London to chair an emergency meeting on the attacks in Kenya.

Reports by John Ngirachu, Zaddock Angira, Aggrey Mutambo, Lucas Baraza, AFP and Xinhua