At least 59 people were killed and 175 others injured in Saturday’s shooting at an upscale mall in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, which is being called the worst terrorist attack in the East African nation since the bombing of the US Embassy in 1998, according to state house spokesman Manoah Esipisu.
PANA reports that some 24 hours after the attack was launched, the standoff between the 10 hooded gunmen (and at least a woman) who stormed the Westgate mall about noon (Kenyan time), and security agencies continued.
At least 30 hostages are believed to still be inside the mall.
PANA quotes Kenya’s Sunday Nation newspaper as saying the Somalia-based al-Qaeda-affiliate Islamic terrorist group, al-Shabaab, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was carried out on a day designated by the UN as the International Day of Peace (21 Sept).
President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose son Jomo and sister Christine were at the mall when it was attacked but escaped unhurt, addressed the nation on Saturday night, vowing to hunt down and punish those behind the terror attack.
“My Government stands ready to defend the nation from internal as well as external aggression. I urge all Kenyans to stand together and see this dark moment through. Donate blood. Provide information to the authorities. Comfort and reassure the affected families.
“But let me make it clear. We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get them. We shall punish them for this heinous crime,” said the President, who said he lost close family members in the attack.
According to the Sunday Nation, the gunmen, who were armed with assault rifles and grenades, shot sporadically after gaining entrance into the 4-storey mall. They screened their targets, sparing only those who identified themselves as Muslims and were able to recite Muslim prayers
Children were among those killed by the militants at the 350,000sq-feet mall.
On Saturday night, the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit announced that a gunman who had been arrested and taken to hospital had died.
Narrating how the gunmen gained access to the mall, the paper quoted a guard with Securex Company, Ukhevi Rasoa, as saying she heard gunshots from the delivery gate.
“Then I saw shards of glass dropping from the windows of a restaurant in the building. When I rushed there, I saw three hooded people dressed in black, including a woman, at the main gate shooting everywhere. They were youthful. One of them wore a black vest with goggles and earphones. The lady wore a pink vest, had goggles and was also hooded. It was around 12.30.”
Also, the paper quoted a driver who operates at the mall, Mr Jackson Kyalo, to have said that one of the terrorists stepped on his head as he asked people lying on the floor if they were Muslims.
“He said they had come to seek revenge as our government had allegedly said al-Shabaab and Muslims should be killed. I survived through God’s mercy,” Mr Kyalo said.