Fresh gunfire has been reported at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi a day after a deadly attack by Islamist militants. Al-Shabab gunmen killed at least 59 people and took an unknown number of hostages in the raid.
Heavy gunfire could be heard Sunday morning at the Westgate shopping mall. Shortly thereafter, two wounded Kenyan security officials were taken from the scene by ambulance.
Military and police forces have been fighting with al-Shabab militants for nearly 24 hours after fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Somali group stormed the mall Saturday afternoon.
Interior Minister Joseph Lenku said Sunday that the death toll had risen to 59 and more than 175 people were wounded. Over 1,000 people had been rescued from the shopping center, he added, saying police forces were in control of the CCTV room.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, the worst act of terrorism in Kenya since a US embassy bombing 15 years ago, saying they specifically targeted non-Muslims.
Kenyan authorities said the attackers took an unknown number of hostages, leading to the standoff that lasted through the night. Since the assault, security forces have had the assailants surrounded and local TV has reported that the first two floors of the mall have been retaken.
The international community had hoped that Somalia would soon stabilize. But the recent attack on a UN compound shows that the security situation is still precarious and the terrorist militia al-Shabab is still active. (20.06.2013)
Fresh soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces were brought in by truck Sunday morning.
Lenku stressed that because hostages were believed to still be in the building, clearing the building was more difficult.
"A number of attakcers are still in the building, and range between 10 to 15," he said. "We believe there are some innocent people in the building, that is why the operation is delicate."
Foreigners among dead
Both Kenyans and foreigners were confirmed dead in the attack, including French and Canadians.
"Violent extremists continue to occupy Westgate Mall. Security services are there in full force," the United States embassy said in an emergency text message Sunday morning.
The Kenya Red Cross has established a center near the mall to trace missing persons.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost family members in the attack, has vowed to stop those responsible.
"We will punish them for this cowardly crime," he said in a televised address.
Westgate mall, which is located in a wealthy area of Nairobi where many United Nations workers and diplomats live, is frequented by many foreign nationals in the city.
dr/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)