SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Govt Condemns Terror Attack in Kenya

The South African government has condemned the terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in which at least 68 people, including a South African, were killed and around 200 people injured.

President Zuma, on behalf of the government and people of South Africa, on Sunday expressed his shock and dismay at Saturday's attack.

Zuma expressed his sympathy and deepest condolences to the family of the South African, as well as to the government and people of Kenya and especially the families of the many deceased, and wished the wounded survivors a speedy recovery.

"South Africa continues to support Kenya's and the international community's efforts aimed at peacekeeping, stability, democracy and nation-building in Somalia," Zuma said in a statement.

"Terrorism in any form and from whichever quarter cannot be condoned, and South Africa stands firmly with the international community in condemning all terrorism, and this act in particular. We wish the Kenyan government every success in rapidly resolving this issue with as little further loss of life as possible."

The South African High Commission in Nairobi is closely monitoring the situation in close liaison with the Kenyan authorities. Consular assistance is being provided to the next of kin of the deceased South African.

Meanwhile, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary in charge of Internal Security, Joseph Ole Lenku, told journalists in Nairobi on Sunday that the security operation to free hostages who were still trapped inside the Westgate mall would continue.

"Regrettably, the human loss in the attack also went up overnight," Lenku told journalists on Sunday. "We have established the location of the criminals. It's a delicate balance and we want to evacuate the hostages safely."

He said the police had managed to evacuate more than 1 000 people from the mall overnight, but that a number of others still remained. "The operation is in a very delicate stage. Our paramount responsibility is to ensure that our people still held in the mall come out alive."

Fierce gunfire was heard from the mall on Sunday as the hostage standoff in Nairobi entered its second day amid heavy security around the building.

Militants from Somalia have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia. An Al-Shabaab spokesman said in an audio message, "Either leave our country or live with constant attacks."

According to the latest reports, the slain foreign victims include Canadians, French nationals, Chinese, South African and Ghanaian people.

The Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) entered Somalia two years ago to pursue the militants, who often crossed the border to stage attacks.

Lenku said the authorities believed there were 10 to 15 attackers still in the building.

"We are grateful for all offers of support from individuals and friendly countries we have received. But by and large, this remains a national security operation," Lenku said.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga condemned the terrorist attack as an act of cowardice and assured the country that its security forces were up to task.

"We will not be intimidated. The act was intended to cow the people of Kenya, but the Kenyan spirit is strong," Odinga told journalists in Nairobi on Sunday.

He appealed to the international community not to issue travel advisories against Kenya, but work with the government to ensure return to normalcy.

"This is not the time for grandstanding. This is not the time for partisan politics. It is a time to unite the country. This is a tragic moment in Kenya. It has been 15 years since the last terrorist attack that claimed 250 lives," Odinga said.

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