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Nairobi mall shooting: Gunmen killed at least 39 in Kenyan shopping centre targeted non-Islamics

by 22/09/2013 03:05:00 0 comments 4408 Views
Nairobi mall shooting: Gunmen killed at least 39 in Kenyan shopping centre targeted non-Islamics
Nairobi mall shooting

Americans were injured in a terror attack by as many as 10 gunmen at a Nairobi, Kenya, shopping center that has left 39 people dead and 150 injured.

The US State Department has confirmed that Americans were hurt in the mass shooting Saturday in a statement issued from the US Embassy in Nairobi, but declined to give names or an exact number of Americans hurt. Americans are not believed to be among the dead at this time.

Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the atrocity in which men armed with guns and grenades stormed the mall and targeted non-Muslims - al-Shabaab is the Somali arm of al-Qaeda.

'We have reports of American citizens injured in the attack, and the U.S. Embassy is actively reaching out to provide assistance,' Marie Harf, deputy spokesman for the State Department said in the statement.

GRAPHIC WARNING CONTENT

Horror: Shoppers hurry down an escalator with their hands in the air as they make their way out of the shopping centre to safety

Horror: Shoppers hurry down an escalator with their hands in the air as they make their way out of the shopping centre to safety

Army: Soldiers were drafted in to help police tackle the gunmen, who are now known to be terrorists from the Somali al-Shabaab organisation, which has links to al-Qaeda

Army: Soldiers were drafted in to help police tackle the gunmen, who are now known to be terrorists from the Somali al-Shabaab organisation, which has links to al-Qaeda

Desperation: A crowd of people hold their arms out to catch a Kenyan woman as she jumps out from the air vent where she had been hiding from the gunmen

Desperation: A crowd of people hold their arms out to catch a Kenyan woman as she jumps out from the air vent where she had been hiding from the gunmen

Emergency: A Red Cross assistant helps a child outside who was among those caught in the shooting

Emergency: A Red Cross assistant helps a child outside who was among those caught in the shooting

Escape: Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre

Escape: Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre

Spree: Shots are still being heard in the mall as police and terrorists engage in a stand-off

Spree: Shots are still being heard in the mall as police and terrorists engage in a stand-off

Hands up: Hostages of all nationalities head for the exit with their arms raised to show they are not carrying any weapons

Hands up: Hostages of all nationalities head for the exit with their arms raised to show they are not carrying any weapons

'We condemn this senseless act of violence that has resulted in death and injury for many innocent men, women, and children,' said Ms Harf. 

Citing privacy concerns, the embassy declined to identify the Americans involved.

Terrorist gunmen remain at the scene and police officers supported by the army are still fighting to bring the situation to an end. There are also reports the gunmen are holding hostages inside the mall.

Hannah Chisholm, a Briton visiting Nairobi, said 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, she told the 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,' she added.

Scramble: People rush for safety away from gunfire between police and armed attackers

Scramble: People rush for safety away from gunfire between police and armed attackers

Fleeing: A child runs to safety across the shopping mall

Fleeing: A child runs to safety across the shopping mall

Wounded: A Kenyan policeman sits clutching his stomach alongside his rifle while a colleague exchanges fire with the terrorists

Wounded: A Kenyan policeman sits clutching his stomach alongside his rifle while a colleague exchanges fire with the terrorists

Scared: Clearly distressed, this family join hands as they make their way out of the building. Bullet wounds can be seen in the glass behind them

Scared: Clearly distressed, this family join hands as they make their way out of the building. Bullet wounds can be seen in the glass behind them

Cat and mouse: A security officer points out the location of where some of the terrorists may be hiding to his colleagues, all three of whom have their pistols at the ready

Cat and mouse: A security officer points out the location of where some of the terrorists may be hiding to his colleagues, all three of whom have their pistols at the ready

Al-Shabaab, also known as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), has claimed responsibility for the atrocity via on Twitter. The terrorist organization said it had previously warned the Kenyan government that, if they did not remove military forces from Somalia, there would be 'severe consequences'.

'For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it's time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land,' it tweeted.

'The Mujahideen entered Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the Kenyan Kuffar inside their own turf.'

The organization claimed it had killed more than 100 Kenyan 'kuffar', a derogatory term used to describe non-Muslims.

Britain's Foreign Secretary said Britons were 'undoubtedly caught up in the attack.' French news agency AFP has said two French citizens were also among the dead. Canada's government announced the deaths of two Canadians.

Protection: A mother and her children lie on the floor as they attempt to hide while the gunmen armed with automatic weapons go on the rampage

Protection: A mother and her children lie on the floor as they attempt to hide while the gunmen armed with automatic weapons go on the rampage

Terrified: A young in tears is led away form the terror by a police officer

Terrified: A young in tears is led away form the terror by a police officer

Kenyan President Uhuru said a close family member was among the victims. In a televised address, he added: 'The despicable perpetrators of this cowardly act hoped to intimidate, divide and cause despondency amongst Kenyans.

'We have overcome terrorist attacks before. We will defeat them again.'

Gunmen who opened fire at a shopping center killing at least 39 and injuring dozens more today let Muslims go free if they could prove they were Islamic.

Witnesses lucky enough to escape the attack said anyone who could recite a Muslim prayer to their captors was allowed to leave unscathed. But the attackers turned their guns on anyone who could not prove they were Islamic.

Kenyan police and soldiers have pinned down the remaining gunmen who opened fire, according to a security source at the scene.

'The attackers have been isolated and are pinned down in an area on one of the floors - the rest of the mall seems to be secure,' the source said.

Safety: Shoppers and shop assistants raise their hands as they are escorted out by armed police

Safety: Shoppers and shop assistants raise their hands as they are escorted out by armed police

Children: A soldier carries one of the survivors to safety as armed police hunt for the gunmen

Children: A soldier carries one of the survivors to safety as armed police hunt for the gunmen

Hunt: Armed police search customers taking cover inside a bathroom at the shopping centre

Hunt: Armed police search customers taking cover inside a bathroom at the shopping centre

Another survivor lucky enough to dodg the flying bullets claimed that the gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that only non-Muslims would be targeted when they opened fire at the upmarket mall of the Westlands district around midday.

At least two dozen people, wounded and dead, were wheeled out on stretchers and in shopping cartss by security guards, while others were seen walking out of the building, clutching bloodied clothing around their injuries.

Locals and tourists who were out shopping on the sunny Saturday in Kenya ran screaming from the building and cars were left abandoned as attackers threw grenades and fired AK47s. 

Over the course of an hour people streamed from the building, at least half a dozen covered in blood and clutching small children to them. A young boy is believed to have been among those killed.

Gunfight: Police are still trying to escort people away from the site where fighting continues

Gunfight: Police are still trying to escort people away from the site where fighting continues

Hostages: Police say armed men are still in the building and are holding prisoners

Hostages: Police say armed men are still in the building and are holding prisoners

Release: Hostages move out in a line after being rescued from the mall

Release: Hostages move out in a line after being rescued from the mall

Deadly: Armed police search Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi for the last remaining gunmen

Deadly: Armed police search Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi for the last remaining gunmen

Search: Police scour the centre with guns to try and locate the terrorists still holding hostages

Search: Police scour the centre with guns to try and locate the terrorists still holding hostages

Internal Security Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo said 'terrorists and threats have been present in Kenya for quite some time now,' during an afternoon news conference.

'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 added.

There were unconfirmed reports of two large explosions, with several smaller explosions. Two people were reportedly injured on the road leading to the shopping center..

'We have officers at the scene trying to get out the group shooting inside. They have not been located,' a senior police official said earlier in the day, adding that 'officers are approaching the situation with caution because there are innocent civilians inside.'

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.

Dutch embassy employee Rob Vandijk said he had been eating at a restaurant in the shopping mall when gunmen threw hand grenades inside the building. Smoke billowed out of the entrance, which was believed to have been caused by the grenade attack.

Shattered glass: A police officer tries to secure an area inside the Westgate Shopping Centre where gunmen went on a shooting spree in Nairobi

Shattered glass: A police officer tries to secure an area inside the Westgate Shopping Centre where gunmen went on a shooting spree in Nairobi

Shootout: Soldiers and armed police fire at the suspected terrorists as they try to wrest back control of the shopping centre

Shootout: Soldiers and armed police fire at the suspected terrorists as they try to wrest back control of the shopping centre

Special forces: The army and elite squads have now been drafted in to help police flush out the gunmen

Special forces: The army and elite squads have now been drafted in to help police flush out the gunmen

Shootout: A police officer takes up position at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi

Shootout: A police officer takes up position at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi

Rescue: A policeman carries a baby to safety on the barrel of his gun while a woman ducks for safety behind him

Rescue: A policeman carries a baby to safety on the barrel of his gun while a woman ducks for safety behind him

Stand-off: Soldiers are still searching in and around the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi after armed men attempted to rob a shop

Stand-off: Soldiers are still searching in and around the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi after the supposed terrorist attack

People began to scream and drop to the ground, he said, as machine gun fire rang out across the busy mall.

'I saw three of the attackers dressed in black and with covered faces and they were carrying heavy rifles,' said another witness.

Police helicopters circled over the building as sporadic gunfire could be heard more than two hours after the attack was launched, authorities cordoned off the roads surrounding the mall in central Nairobi's Westlands neighborhood.

Manish Turohit, 18, who escaped after hiding in the parking garage for two hours, told reporters he saw gunmen with AK-47s and vests with hand grenades on them inside the center.

Police initially believed the attack was an attempt by about ten armed men to rob a shop. But Elijah Kamau, another survivor witness, said that the gunmen had announced that they were targeting non-Muslims as they began their attack at the center.

Some of those who escaped were 'challenged to recite a Muslim prayer and were then let out', according to Allan Sayers, who contacted MailOnline and said he was in the Westgate mall five minutes before the attack.

Mr Sayers said people were still in text and phone contact with some of the hostages.

'There are still many hostages still inside and reports of many more dead,' he added.

 
Wounded: A security officer helps an injured woman away from the building

Wounded: A security officer helps an injured woman away from the building

Relief: A woman who had been held hostage makes it out alive from the mall

Relief: A woman who had been held hostage makes it out alive from the mall, where seven are still being held

Injured: A security officer talks to his colleagues shortly after being helped from the scene having been wounded

Injured: A security officer talks to his colleagues shortly after being helped from the scene having been wounded

 
Critical: A victim is wheeled into the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi for emergency treatment

Critical: A victim is wheeled into the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi for emergency treatment

Rescue: A woman is shipped to an ambulance in a shopping trolley by centre staff

Rescue: A woman is shipped to an ambulance in a shopping trolley by centre staff

Devastating: Injured people receive assistance from bypassers at the scene of the shooting

Devastating: Injured people receive assistance from bypassers at the scene of the shooting

Family mall: Customers who had planned a Saturday of shopping were forced to run following a shootout between unidentified armed men and the police

Family mall: Customers who had planned a Saturday of shopping were forced to run following a shootout between unidentified armed men and the police

'They don't seem like thugs, this is not a robbery incident,' said Yukeh Mannasseh who was on the top floor when the shooting started. 'It seems like an attack. The guards who saw them said they were shooting indiscriminately.'

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.

'The gunmen tried to fire at my head but missed. There are definitely many casualties,' Sudjar Singh, who works at the shopping centre, told AFP.

'I saw three of the attackers dressed in black and with covered faces and they were carrying heavy rifles,' said another witness.

Errol Fernandes, a Kenyan businessman told reporters 'there were two guys – they came in from the car park on the roof. One had dreadlocks, he had an AK47 and was firing randomly.

'I just ran into the café kitchen and then we all hid in the refrigerator, until we were told to run out of the fire escape,' he added. 'I'm sure there must be many dead and injured.'

'The gunmen tried to fire at my head but missed,' shopping center employee Sudjar Singh told AFP. 'There are definitely many casualties,'

Escape: An injured man who managed to flee the attackers is treated by paramedics outside the shopping centre

Escape: An injured man who managed to flee the attackers is treated by paramedics outside the shopping centre

Terrorist: Somali Islamist attacks are not uncommon in Kenya, although police have not confirmed the identity of the attackers

Terrorist: Somali Islamist attacks are not uncommon in Kenya, although police have not confirmed the identity of the attackers

Horror: Customers are evacuated from the shopping centre covered in blood

Horror: Customers are evacuated from the shopping centre covered in blood

Victim: Rescuers attempt to evacuate a man injured in a shootout

Victim: Rescuers attempt to evacuate a man injured in a shootout

Killings: At least 15 people are believed to be dead, although police have not confirmed a death toll

Killings: At least 15 people are believed to be dead, although police have not confirmed a death toll

Help: A man carries a boy away from the scene of the carnage earlier today

[caption

Shock: Witnesses said a half dozen grenades went off along with volleys of gunfire that started at midday

Shock: Witnesses said a half dozen grenades went off along with volleys of gunfire that started at midday

 

An AFPTV reporter said shortly after the attack he saw police and security guards trying to secure a multi-screen cinema complex inside the mall where many had taken shelter.  She saw at least 20 people rescued from a toy shop on one of the upper floors of the building.

Attacks by Somali Islamists in Kenya often involve gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades, with targets including bars, nightclubs and restaurants in various parts of the country.

There was a suspected al-Shabaab attack which left five dead and three injured at a restaurant in the eastern city of Garissa in January, and in August last year one person was killed and six more were left injured in the Eastleigh area of Nairobi on the eve of a visit by Hillary Clinton, then the United States secretary of state.

 

The US Department of State has deferred to local authorities for information about the attack and has no plans for further comment at this time.

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