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Kenya Forces Clearing Nairobi Mall

by 23/09/2013 19:46:00 0 comments 860 Views
Kenya Forces Clearing Nairobi Mall
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Kenyan security forces say they are attempting to clear the Westgate shopping complex in Nairobi in order to bring to an end the three-day siege.

Explosions and heavy gunfire were reported earlier as soldiers stormed the mall, where suspected al-Shabab militants are thought to be holed up.

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) said three "terrorists" had been killed and all escape routes sealed off.

Flames and thick smoke are continuing to rise from the building.

The KDF said the fire had been started by "terrorists to distract the ongoing operation", and that the blaze was being managed by firefighters. 

The official death toll stands at 62 and more than 170 have been injured.

The Somali Islamist al-Shabab movement has said it carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Nairobi says the number of militants involved in the attack was put at between 10 and 15, and officials say some of them are still on the run, hiding in shops.

The Kenyan government says almost all the hostages have been evacuated from the Westgate shopping centre - but it is not clear whether any are still in the hands of the militants.

And that may be one of the reasons the authorities say they are still moving cautiously, trying to ensure that there is no further loss of life, our correspondent says.

The KDF said 10 bodies had been retrieved from the building in the last 24 hours. More than 200 civilians have been rescued, 65 of whom remain in hospital.

Eleven KDF soldiers were injured during the operation, it said.

Earlier, police used tear gas to disperse crowds of onlookers gathered close to the Westgate Centre.

The Interior Ministry is issuing regular warnings for people to stay away for their own safety.

Security has also been stepped up at entrance and exit points across the country, with "more than 10 individuals" arrested in relation to the attack, the ministry said.

However, it did not specify when or where the arrests were made.

Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi


A security officer gestures as smoke rises from Westgate Shopping Centre


Kenyan police officers take position during the ongoing military operation at the Westgate Shopping Centre

Repeated threats

More than 1,000 people were inside the mall complex when the attack began on Saturday.

Dr Sunil Sachdeva, a dentist who runs a clinic inside the mall, described the scene as the attack unfolded.

"There was a tent where a cookery competition for children was carrying on and there were bodies lying under there," he told the BBC.

"There's a very famous radio presenter in Kenya, she was shot. The scene was carnage and there was a guy lying right in the corner. He was cut to shreds."

Prominent Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor - who was attending a literary festival in Nairobi - also died, as did a Chinese woman.

French, Dutch, South African, Indian and Canadian nationals are also among the foreigners confirmed killed, along with a dual Australian-British national.

Thousands of Kenyans have been responding to appeals for blood donations.

Al-Shabab, which is part of the al-Qaeda network, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia.

There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011 as part of an African Union force supporting Somali government forces.

Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.

Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it still remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.

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