At least 39 people were killed and over 150 others wounded, including foreigners, after gunmen stormed an upscale mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, the country’s president said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the attack sought to intimidate and divide the nation, but stated that the “terrorists” will be defeated, according to Reuters. The president added that he lost “very close family members” in the mall shooting, Reuters reported.
“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.”
Witnesses said the attackers ordered all Muslims to leave the premises, as only non-Muslims would be targeted.
“The casualties are many, and that’s only what we have on the outside. Inside there are even more casualties and shooting is still going on,” Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Guled said.
A police officer inside the shopping center said the gunmen had barricaded themselves into the Nakumatt supermarket.
“We have reports of American citizens injured in the attack, and the US Embassy is actively reaching out to provide assistance,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement, Reuters reports.
Two French citizens were confirmed dead in the attack, France’s presidential office stated.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that there are “undoubtedly” British nationals caught up in the mall shooting.
One of the British witnesses of the attack said that she and 60 others barricaded themselves into a large storeroom.
“We kept running to different places but the shots were getting louder so we barricaded ourselves along with about 60 others into a large storeroom. There were children hiding with us as well as someone who had been shot,” Hannah Chisholm told BBC. “The gunfire was loud and we were scared but at that point we thought the gunmen were thieves so we assumed they wouldn’t try to reach the storeroom.”
Al Jazeera International has reported that Al Shabaab, a hardline Islamist group with a stronghold in neighboring Somalia, told them that they carried out the Nairobi shooting.
Al-Shabaab had earlier threatened to strike the mall, as it is a popular destination for the city’s expatriate community.
At least two dozen wounded were wheeled out on stretchers and shopping carts. Many of the victims had sustained what appeared to be superficial wounds inflicted by flying debris. Others were seen walking out of the building with bloodied articles of clothing wrapped around their injuries.
“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.
Five assailants, armed with AK-47s and grenades launched their attack on the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital around midday.
Gunmen were said to have lobbed grenades at the onset of the strike. They then proceeded to shoot indiscriminately and took several people hostage at the mall in Nairobi, a senior Kenyan government source said. Armed police arrived on the scene nearly half an hour later and could be heard shouting“get out, get out” as scores of shoppers fled the building. Smoke billowed out of the entrance, which was believed to have been caused by the grenade attack.
“They don’t seem like thugs, this is not a robbery incident,” Yukeh Mannasseh who was on the mall’s top floor when the shooting started, said. “It seems like an attack. The guards who saw them said they were shooting indiscriminately.”
An AFPTV reporter said police and security guards were trying to secure a multi-screen cinema complex inside the mal where many had taken shelter.
The reporter said she saw at least 20 people rescued from a toy shop on one of the upper floors of the building.
A shop manager who managed to escape said it had appeared “the shooters had taken control of all the mall.”
One victim said that he had been shot by a man who appeared to be Somali, while others noted the gunmen were speaking in a foreign language.
“A Somali guy shot at me. The guy who shot me was carrying a rifle, an AK-47,” said Saptal Singh, who was in a cafe in the top floor of the mall.
Somalia’s al Shabaab militant group said Saturday that it is contact with what it called “Mujahideen”gunmen who had attacked the shopping mall. They added that they would not be negotiating with the Mujahideen in the shopping center.
“The Kenyan govt is pleading with our Mujahideen inside the mall for negotiations. There will be no negotiations whatsoever at the Westgate (the mall where the attack took place),” the al Shabaab militant group said on its official Twitter account.
The al-Qaeda linked militant group said that the attack was in revenge for crimes committed by Kenyan soldiers in Somalia. Troops from Kenya and other African nations are serving as peacekeepers in war torn Somalia to the north.
Police are currently engaged in an ongoing shop-by-shop sweep of the complex. “They have seven hostages, confirmed,” an officer told AFP. Kenyan soldiers were also deployed to take part in the operation to bring the shopping complex back under control.
Police helicopters circled over the building as sporadic gunfire could be heard more than two hours after the attack was launched. Police cordoned off the roads surrounding the mall in central Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood.
The Kenyan president’s office has announced that one of the gunmen arrested by police in the Nairobi shopping mall has died from gunshot wounds.
- Britons caught up in mall attack (standard.co.uk)
- Dozens feared dead in mall attack (standard.co.uk)
- Nairobi shopping mall attacks: Britons among those caught up in terrorist assault (telegraph.co.uk)
- Nairobi Gun Attack’: Al Shabaab Militant Group Claims Responsibility For Westgate Shopping Mall Shooting (mixupcity.wordpress.com)
- At least 39 killed, over 150 injured in Nairobi shopping mall attack (freedomportal.net)
- Thirty killed in Nairobi mall ‘terror’ attack (capitalfm.co.ke)
- Kenya mall attack: Somalia’s al-Shabaab group claims responsibility (theguardian.com)