Kenyan forces rescue most mall hostages

Kenyan forces

Kenyan forces

Kenyan security forces are claiming to have rescued most of the hostages being held by al-Shabab fighters in an upscale shopping mall in the capital Nairobi.

Armed men belonging to the Somali group had stormed the Westgate shopping centre a day earlier using grenades and assault rifles. The attack left at least 68 people dead and more than 150 wounded, according to the Red Cross.

Gunfire and an explosion were heard from the shopping centre after dark on Sunday, as security forces intensified efforts to end the standoff amid fears that the death toll could rise sharply following the discovery of more corpses by security men inside the building.

Al-Shabab spokesman Abu Omar talks to Al Jazeera about the siege
Kenya’s Disaster Operation Center said “this will end tonight. Our forces will prevail.” Security forces also said that most parts of the mall had also been secured.

Meanwhile, al-Shabab, which has claimed responsibility for the siege, said on its Twitter feed that the “Kenyan government shall be held responsible for any loss of life as a result of such an imprudent move. The call is yours!”

It said “Kenyan forces who’ve just attempted a roof landing must know that they are jeopardising the lives of hostages.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera later, Abu Omar, a spokesman, for the group, ruled out any negotiations over the hostages being held and said they would meet their fate.

Al-Shabab told Al Jazeera it carried out the attack in which they specifically targeted non-Muslims. Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including French, Britons, Indians, Canadians, Chinese and a renowned Ghanaian poet.

The Somali group is demanding that Kenya pull troops back from its neighbour, where al-Shabab is fighting against the government.

Narrow escape

 Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi September 21, 2013. (Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi September 21, 2013. (Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

As daylight broke on Sunday, several people in hiding in the mall escaped to safety, suggesting that not everyone who was still inside was being held by the al-Shabab fighters

Cecile Ndwiga said she had been hiding under a car in the basement parking garage.

What led to the al-Shabab attack on the Kenyan mall? “I called my husband to ask the soldiers to come and rescue me. Because I couldn’t just walk out anyhow. The shootout was all over here, left, right, just gun shots,” she said.

Security forces had pushed curious crowds far back from the mall. Hundreds of residents gathered on a high ridge above the mall to watch for any activity.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms,” and reminded Kenya that any response must comply with international human rights law.
Presidential pledge

In a live television statement late on Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the country had “overcome terrorist attacks before” and vowed to “hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to”.

“In fact, we have fought courageously and defeated them within and outside our borders – we will defeat them again,” said Kenyatta.
Kenyatta said his nephew and his fiancee were among those killed in the mall. “They shall not get away with their despicable and beastly acts,” he said.

Witnesses said the attackers opened fire and executed people after they threw grenades into the building at about midday local time (09:00 GMT) on Saturday.

source: AL JAZEERA