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Most hostages freed in Nairobi mall siege as rescue continues

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September 23, 2013

A rescue operation continues for local and foreign hostages still held inside Nairobi’s Westgate mall. Most have been freed, Kenya’s military said. At least 69 people have been killed and 200 injured in the attack launched by Islamist militants.

Another 63 people are reported to be missing, the Kenyan Red Cross reported on Monday. That number includes both hostages still being held by the rebels and those still unaccounted for inside the mall, Reuters says.

Kenyan military spokesperson Colonel Cyrus Oguna confirmed that “most of the hostages have been released, and the Kenya Defence Forces has taken control of most parts of the building.”

Oguna also stated that “around 10” hostages are still being held by Somalia’s al-Shabab militants inside the mall. Most of those already rescued were adults, AP cited the spokesperson as saying.

Earlier Sunday, Kenyan troops launched an assault on cornered Somali militants in the Westgate shopping mall. Four military personnel were injured during the latest rescue operation, the Kenya Defence Forces stated.

The Kenyan president’s office announced that one of the gunmen arrested by police inside the mall died from gunshot wounds.

Operations are continuing…We will free all those inside and stop this, of course we cannot give details of the operations except to say that everything that can be done is being done,” a security officer said, as quoted by AFP.

Police said they fear the death toll from the siege could become higher, after hearing reports of multiple corpses inside the building.

Israeli advisers are reportedly helping Kenya determine a strategy to end the mall siege.

There are Israeli advisers helping with the negotiating strategy, but no Israelis involved in any imminent storming operation,” an Israeli security source told Reuters.

Ten to 15 gunmen are reportedly still inside the shopping center.

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab militant group said the Nairobi attack was a response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

‘Despicable perpetrators’

Among the victims of the attack are citizens of the US, UK, France, Canada, Australia, China, South Korea, India, South Africa, and Ghana.

At least four American citizens were injured in the attack, the US State Department said in a statement. The wife of a foreign service national working for the US Agency for International Development was killed, US officials said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the attack sought to intimidate and divide the nation, but stated that the “terrorists” will be defeated. The president added that he lost “very close family members” in the mall shooting.

The despicable perpetrators of this cowardly act hoped to intimidate, divide and cause despondency amongst Kenyans,” Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation. “We have overcome terrorist attacks before. We will defeat them again.”

Masked assailants armed with AK-47s and grenades launched their attack on the Westgate shopping mall around noon on Saturday, reportedly targeting non-Muslims.

Gunmen were said to have lobbed grenades at the onset of the strike. They then proceeded to shoot indiscriminately and held several people hostage. Armed police arrived on the scene nearly half an hour later, as scores of shoppers were fleeing the building. Some of the wounded were wheeled out on stretchers and in shopping carts.

I personally touched the eyes of four people and they were dead. One of them was a child. Its carnage up there,” said a former British soldier at the scene.

Al-Shabab, a hardline Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group with a stronghold in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility for the siege. It had previously threatened to strike the mall – a popular destination for the city’s expatriate community.

The siege marks the largest terrorist attack in Nairobi since 1998, when a bombing at the US Embassy left 213 people dead. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for that attack.

This article was posted: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 5:05 am

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