The FBI is investigating claims that up to five of the terrorists who killed 68 people in a despicable attack on an upmarket Kenyan shopping mall are Americans, as the the siege moved into its third day with fresh gunfire and explosions reported coming from the center on Monday morning in Nairobi.
As day broke following a quiet night, journalists near the upmarket Westgate complex heard bursts of rifle fire and muffled blasts. A Kenyan Red Cross official, Abbas Guled, said there appeared to be clashes inside the building and Kenyan military officers said a small number of hostages remained inside the mall.
On Sunday, the Kenyan military reported that it had rescued hostages and secured ‘most parts’ of the center following the two day standoff but that up to ten hostages remained trapped inside with heavily militants from Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement.
‘We are yet to get confirmation from what’s happening in the building,’ Colonel Cyrus Oguna, a Kenyan military spokesman, told The Associated Press.
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Siege: Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after shooting started inside the mall early Monday morning, Sept. 23, 2013
Assault: Kenya Security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after firing started inside the mall early Monday morning – Kenya’s military launched a major operation at the upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued “most” of the hostages
Ongoing Military Operation: Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall
Waiting and Watching: Onlookers gather on a hill to observe the Westgate Mall after a bout of heavy gunfire just after dawn in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 23, 2013
Standoff: A Kenyan police officer (L) and a Kenya Defense Forces soldier (R) prepare for an incoming fire at the Oshwal Centre adjacent to the Westgate shopping mall where the hostage situation continues in Nairobi, Kenya on early Monday morning
Patience: Members of Kenya’s security forces man a checkpoint outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya early Monday, Sept. 23, 2013
Kenyan policemen gather for a briefing near the Westgate Shopping Centre in the capital Nairobi, September 23, 2013. Heavy and sustained gunfire was heard from the Kenyan shopping mall on Monday morning
A truck of security forces arrives at the Westgate Mall after a bout of heavy gunfire just after dawn in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.
Sources close to terror group Al Shabaab told CNN on Sunday that nine extremists had been named on their Twitter account along with their nationalities and allegedly included U.S. citizens. The account has now been suspended by the site.
And just before evening on Sunday Kenya Defence Forces posted on its Twitter account that ‘most of the hostages hostages have been rescued’ and that security forces had taken control of ‘most parts of the building’ – however, the operation is still continuing and only a small number remained under the control of the militants.
The dramatic assault, which began shortly before sundown, came as two helicopters circled the Westgate mall, with one skimming very close to the roof.
They added that four military personnel were injured in the operation and officials attached to the defense forces did not elaborate how the hostages were freed or if the extremists were in custody.
Some gunmen are reported to be currently holed up in a supermarket in the shopping mall complex.
The revelation that Americans could be involved in the terror atrocity came after a large explosion today rocked the upmarket mall where as many as 15 Islamic extremists had been holding the hostages a day after attacking it, killing at least 68 and injuring at least 175 people – including five Americans.
Kenyan paramilitary officers walk towards a small shopping arcade adjacent to the Westgate shopping mall where the hostage situation continues in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday
Rescue mission: An image from AFP TV shows military forces taking position inside the shopping mall
Kenyan police officers take cover to prepare for the incoming fire at the Oshwal Centre adjacent to the Westgate shopping mall where the hostage situation continues in Nairobi, Kenya, in the early hours of 23 September 2013
Assault: A Large number of troops from the kenya defence force arrived to strengthen the already formidable numbers of troops available as a Kenyan army helicopter flies low near the Westgate mall in Nairobi on Sunday
Tense: Kenyan paramilitary officers walk towards a small shopping arcade adjacent to the Westgate shopping mall where the fate of the hostages remained unclear on Monday morning
Armed response: Kenyan troops with machine guns take up position in the mall. The terrorist group al Shabaab demanded that Kenyan troops leave Somalia where they have pushed the militants on to the defensive in the past two years as part of an African Union-backed peacekeeping mission
Fleeing to safety: A soldier directs people up stairs inside the Westgate shopping mall after a shootout in Nairobi, Kenya
Laying siege: Armed police crouch down and take position during a gun battle with Islamic terrorists at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday
Lock-down: Kenya security personnel walk to their positions outside the shopping mall as the siege continued yesterday
The Kenyan military stormed the four-story mall and there have been sporadic gun battles with extremists. Kenyan troops were seen carrying in at least two rocket-propelled grenades – and, earlier, military helicopters hovered over the mall.
It came after the wife of a U.S. embassy worker was identified as one of the dead. Four Americans are among the 175 wounded in the attack by
al Qaeda-linked extremists, who opened fire in the mall after reportedly allowing Muslims to flee.
Reuters had earlier reported that Secretary of State John Kerry said the wife of a U.S. diplomat working for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed. However the State Department said that it was in fact the wife of a national working for the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.
There are currently no reports of American casualties.
According to NBC News, the FBI is actively investigating whether as many as five Americans were part of the terror cell which launched the deadly mall attack.
However, sources close to the investigation have cautioned that authorities have not confirmed this and at present do not know for sure who is involved and their nationalities.
The suggestion that Americans were involved in the deadly terror attack originated from the Twitter feed claiming to belong to the Somali al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab, which is claiming responsibility for the outrage.
That account lists specific names and the homes states of the alleged American terrorists – of which two are purportedly from the St. Paul-Minneapolis area in Minnesota and another from Kansas City in Missouri.
St. Paul-Minneapolis has the largest Somali population outside of Mogadishu, with some 85,700 members.
It is thought that the FBI will have already acted on the information available to them and will have acertained whether the individuals are in the country or have traveled abroad.
Kenya’s Red Cross said that 49 people were reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could form the basis of the number of people held captive.
The Red Cross added on Sunday that the death toll had risen from 59 to 68 after nine more bodies were recovered in a joint rescue mission.
Kenyan police said on Twitter on Sunday that a ‘MAJOR’ assault by security forces had started to end the two-day siege.
‘This will end tonight. Our forces will prevail. Kenyans are standing firm against aggression, and we will win,’ Kenya’s Disaster Operations Center tweeted.
The assault came about 36 hours after up to 15 al Shabaab extremists stormed the mall from two sides, throwing grenades and firing on civilians.
Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the military had identified the attackers’ locations but that the operation is very ‘delicate’.
An injured person arrives in an ambulance at the Aga Khan Hospital following an attack at the Westgate Mall where gunmen opened fire and threw grenades in Kenya. Pictured right, relatives help a woman at the Nairobi City Mortuary after she identified the body of a victim of the Saturday attack
Army: Soldiers were drafted in to help police tackle the gunmen – terrorists from the Somali al-Shabaab organisation, which has links to al-Qaeda
Kenyan policemen and soldiers taking position as they battle Somali militants who have killed at least 68 people and injured 175 at a Nairobi shopping center
A Kenyan soldier holding a dog by its leash enters the main gate of Westgate Shopping Center as the military tried to overpower the terrorists on Sunday
Escape: Women carrying children run for safety after al Shabaab terrorists stormed Westgate shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya armed with guns and grenades
Ordeal: People come out from hiding under a car next to bodies in a car park as police search for the armed radicals
Escape: This family, who had been trapped inside the shopping centre, support each other as they escape from the scene
Terrified civilians are among the fortunate who were evacuated from a shopping mall following a terrorist attack where at least 68 people were dead
‘We have confirmed the location of the criminals but will not give (out) the details,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to lose innocent life.’
A State Department official told MailOnline on Sunday: ‘The situation is ongoing. There are no new reports of American citizen casualties.
‘The United States remains committed to continuing our close cooperation with the Kenyan government to combat the shared threat of international terrorism.’
One nearby hospital has taken in at least 128 patients and performed 28 surgeries to remove bullets and shrapnel in the first 24 hours since the attacks began Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
‘We have at least two critical patients currently, one with bullets lodged near the spine,’ M.P. Shah Hospital Chairman Manoj Shah told the AP. He added that four of the 19 fatalities at this particular hospital were children.
As the massacre unfolded, witnesses described terrifying scenes in which men, women and children of all ages and nationalities were brutally cut down by gunfire.
Around 1,000 people were evacuated from the mall with many running from the center with their hands raised while others crawled on their bellies to safety.
The Westgate Mall is a popular weekend spot with wealthy Kenyans and foreign expats with its array of big-brand stores, coffee shops and sushi restaurants.
Location: The attack took place in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya
Fleeing: A police officer holds a gun to provide cover for customers running out of the Westgate shopping mall following the terrorist massacre that began on Saturday around noon (local time)
Courage under fire: Kenyan troops taking position to battle the al-Qaeda-affiliated troops in Nairobi on Saturday
A wounded soldier is removed from an ambulance at an emergency staging area near the Kenyan mall where gunmen shot dead at least 59 people
Bloodied: Elaine Dang (right), an American believed to be from San Diego and working in Kenya, was injured on Sunday. She is now recovering in hospital
A Kenyan police officer runs towards a crowd outside the Westgate mall in Nairobi on Sunday as authorities fought to free hostages who have now been trapped inside for more than 24 hours. Pictured right, people walk and crawl out of the shopping center with their hands raised following the militant attack
Anxious: Onlookers stand along the road and look from a distance at Westgate Shopping Centre, where gunmen are holding hostages, in Nairobi on September 22, 2013
Saved: A woman sobs as she is brought out of the shopping center in a cart after terrorists launched an attack on Saturday
Rescue: Armed police guide a woman carrying a child to safety at Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi after terrorists stormed the building
On Sunday, President Barack Obama called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to express his condolences.
‘President Obama reiterated U.S. support for Kenya’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice,’ the White House said in a statement.
The names of the dead began to emerge over the weekend as the siege continued. Canadian diplomat Anne-Marie Desloges, 29, and a pregnant Kenyan radio journalist Ruhila Adatia were identified as being killed in the terrorist attack.
A renowned Ghanaian poet and statesman Kofi Awoonor was killed. The esteemed professor was a former ambassador Brazil, Cuba and the United Nations.
Elaine Dang, 26, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, has been named as one of the injured and is recovering in hospital today. She tweeted on Sunday: ‘I am recovering. Thank you for all the love and support – in Kenya and overseas. Terrorism knows no religion.’
She then posted a picture of herself and added: ‘Proof that I am OK – hanging out with some of my best friends in Nairobi.’
The mall, a popular haunt for rich Kenyans and expats, is dotted with bodies lying in pools of blood. Some victims were shot dead as they sat in their cars, while others have been left with horrific injuries.
Kenyans lie on stretchers to donate blood for the victims of the Westgate terror attack on Sunday after the country’s president urged volunteers to come forward following the atrocity
Carried to safety: A policeman carries a baby along with his machine gun (left) while a Red Cross worker holds a screaming child after masked gunmen stormed an upmarket mall and sprayed bullets on shoppers
Staging: Kenya Defense Forces soldiers prepare for the final push to rescue the hostages and neutralize the gunmen on Sunday in what was being described as a ‘delicate’ situation
Emotional: Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (center) makes a statement to the nation following the overwhelming numbers of casualties from the Westgate mall terror attack. Kenyatta said his nephew and his fiancée were among the 59 dead
Gunfire erupted briefly on Sunday inside the Nairobi shopping mall where Islamist militants are holed up with hostages.
The terrorists, using guns and grenades, slaughtered 68 people in the attack, according to Kenyan Interior Minister Joe Lenku. A large Kenyan security force has laid siege to the mall and taken control of its security cameras.
Five hostages were released on Sunday at around 2am local time. It is thought that Israeli soldiers are assisting with the rescue mission: ‘The Israelis have entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured,’ a source told AFP.
Two wounded Kenyan security forces officers were carried out of the mall this morning after a barrage of gunfire was heard.
Two gunmen have been killed by authorities, but as many as 15 remain, CNN reported. Is is believed that one of the militant fighters is a woman.
Jonathan Maungo, a private security guard, told Reuters: ‘They entered through blood, that’s how they’ll leave.’
Relief: Elaine Dang, an American who works in Kenya, tweeted this picture from her hospital bed and thanked her supporters
Terrified shoppers told of how they huddled in back hallways and prayed they would not be found by the militants. When the way appeared clear, crying mothers clutching small children and blood-splattered men sprinted out of the mall.
At one burger restaurant, a man and woman lay in a final embrace after they had been killed, before their bodies were removed. Pop music was still playing over the loudspeaker.
Witness Elijah Kamau said the gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted, as they began their attack.
The gunmen threw grenades and then opened fire, sending shoppers and staff fleeing for their lives.
Charles Karani, 41, an IT engineer, said: ‘I hid under a car with my daughters, and I saw the men line up maybe 40 people and ask them who was Muslim, and if they were to prove it by saying the name of the Prophet’s mother. Those who got it wrong were shot.
‘There was blood everywhere. Two ladies under the car with me had gunshot wounds on their legs.
‘Another Indian gentlemen was hit in the face by a bullet but he seemed not to be gravely hurt. Other people for sure are dead. I saw four people lying, not moving.
Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab, which is linked to al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the atrocity in which men armed with guns and grenades stormed the mall and targeted non-Muslims.
In what is believed to be a first, terrorists live-tweeted the attack on their Twitter account until it was suspended.
Horror: Shoppers hurry down an escalator with their hands in the air as they make their way out of the shopping centre to safety
Desperation: A crowd of people hold their arms out to catch a Kenyan woman as she jumps out from the air vent where she had been hiding from the gunmen
Spree: Shots are still being heard in the mall as police and terrorists engage in a stand-off
Hands up: Hostages of all nationalities head for the exit with their arms raised to show they are not carrying any weapons
Identified: Canadian diplomat Annemarie Desloges, 29, was shot dead by the gunmen at the Nairobi mall. Pictured right, with her husband Robert on their wedding day
The savage attack took place on the International Day of Peace, which is usually celebrated by temporary cease-fires in conflict zones in order to allow for humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.
‘We have reports of American citizens injured in the attack, and the U.S. Embassy is actively reaching out to provide assistance,’ Marie Harf, deputy spokesman for the State Department said in the statement.
‘We condemn this senseless act of violence that has resulted in death and injury for many innocent men, women, and children.’
Citing privacy concerns, the U.S. Embassy declined to identify the Americans involved but an official did tell the Associated press that four Americans were injured in the assault.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta says he shares the grief of the nation – his nephew and nephew’s fiancee are among the dead.
‘We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to,’ said President Kenyatta. ‘We shall get them. We shall punish them for this heinous crime.
‘We are as brave and invincible as the lions on our coat of arms, my government stands ready… I urge all Kenyans to stand together and see this dark moment through,’ the clearly shaken president continued.
‘The despicable perpetrators of this cowardly act hoped to intimidate, divide and cause despondency amongst Kenyans.We have overcome terrorist attacks before. We will defeat them again.’
He urged Kenyans to ‘remain calm and vigilant’ and asked them to donate blood to help treat the injured.
Here they come to save the day: Kenya Defense Forces arrive outside the Westgate Mall just after dawn, it didn’t take long for the gunmen to start firing at them
Wounded: A Kenyan policeman sits clutching his stomach alongside his rifle while a colleague exchanges fire with the terrorists
Scared: Clearly distressed, this family join hands as they make their way out of the building. Bullet wounds can be seen in the glass behind them
Cat and mouse: A security officer points out the location of where some of the terrorists may be hiding to his colleagues, all three of whom have their pistols at the ready
A confidential United Nations report cited by the New York Times called the attack ‘a complex, two-pronged assault’ with two squads of gunmen opening fire while storming the mall from different floors. Witnesses told the paper one of the gunmen was a woman.
MASSACRE AT THE MALL: TIMELINE OF THE TERRORIST ATTACK
The timeline is on Kenyan time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.S.
Saturday, 12.30pm: Terrorists storm the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, an upmarket shopping center, through the front entrance.
Initially, shoppers believe the attack to be a robbery. Reports of grenade explosions
12.45pm: Up to 15 gun-wielding suspects swarm the mall as terrified shoppers run for their lives and others shelter in closets, refrigerators and back hallways.
1pm: Kenyan security forces launch an assault on the mall to flush out the gunman
3pm: The first bodies are removed from the mall including those who were shot dead at lunch tables and a couple lying in a final embrace.
4pm: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says he has lost several family members before vowing that terrorists would be defeated.
Among the 39 being reported dead are the wife of an American diplomat along with Canadian and Ghanian diplomats.
9pm: al Shabaab, a Somali-militant group with links to al Qaeda, claim responsibility for the attack.
2am: Five hostages are released. Up to 15 remain inside while their relatives hold a vigil at a Red Cross center nearby
11am: Bursts of gunfire from the building as Kenyan security forces close in. Israeli troops brought in for support
Sunday 2pm: 59 people dead; with 175 injuredand 15 hostages still trapped
Several armed units and soldiers could be seen on Kenyan television streaming into the area surrounding the mall as the siege approached the 20-hour mark. Reports also indicated the gunmen were firing on authorities staged in the parking lot as the sun came up on Sunday. Continuous sporadic gunfire was heard throughout the morning.
Hannah Chisholm, visiting Nairobi from the UK, said she and 60 others barricaded themselves in a large storeroom.
‘We kept running to different places but the shots were getting louder so we barricaded ourselves along with about 60 others into a large storeroom. There were children hiding with us as well as someone who had been shot,’she told the BBC.
‘The gunfire was loud and we were scared but at that point we thought the gunmen were thieves so we assumed they wouldn’t try to reach the storeroom,’ she added.
Diplomat Annemarie Desloges, 29, was killed in the terror attack, the Canadian government confirmed on Sunday.
Mrs Desloges was shopping with her husband when the attack took place, according to the Vancouver Sun. She was a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency, working on immigration issues, the paper noted. Mrs Deloges had been living in Kenya for two years.
Britain’s Foreign Office said at least three UK nationals were killed in the attack and warned that the number of such fatalities is ‘likely to rise as further information becomes available’.
It was reported today that a person holding dual Australian and British citizenship was killed in the attack.
French President Francois Holland said two French women were killed.
One South African citizen was killed, said the country’s International Relations Department.
Two Indians were killed and four wounded in the attack, said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said a 33-year-old Dutch woman died in the attack and that seven other Dutch citizens who were in the mall escaped unharmed. The victim’s identity was not released.
A 38-year-old Chinese woman was killed in the shopping mall ‘terror attack’, the Chinese Embassy in Kenya said in a statement. Her son was injured and hospitalized in stable condition, according to the statement posted on the embassy’s website.
Pregnant Kenyan radio journalist Ruhila Adatia was confirmed among the dead. Prior to going shopping for baby clothes, Ms Adatia was hosting a children’s cooking competition in the mall’s parking lot.
The popular presenter posted several pictures taken posing with fans to Instagram in the hours before the attack.
Fellow journalist Kamal Kaur, who was with Ms Adatia in the mall when she was shot dead, told KTN that her children had been injuried. Both children suffered shrapnel wounds to the legs and one had a head injury, she said.
Ms Dang, 26, is helped from the shopping mall covered in blood and is believed to be recovering in hospital
Killed in the attack: Ruhila Adatia, who was expecting a child, was at the Nairobi mall shopping for baby clothes when the terrorists struck on Saturday
Tragedy: Mrs Adatia, who was expecting her first child, was shopping for baby clothes when she was killed in the attack by al-Shabaab terrorists
Shaken: Journalist Kamal Kaur reported that she had been injured in the attack and that her children had suffered shrapnel wounds to the legs
Desperation: An injured woman, whose face and clothes are drenched in blood, lies on the ground outside the shopping mall screaming for help
Helping hands: An injured man is carried out of the Westgate shopping center after Saturday’s attack
Scramble: People crawl on their stomachs to safety as security forces keep a lookout at the Nairobi mall on Saturday
Fleeing: A child runs to safety across the shopping mall
AL-SHABAAB AT A GLANCE
- Translated from Arabic means ‘the Youth’
- Evolved from being the de-facto police in Mogadishu, Somalia into terrorism
- Began suicide bombings in 2009 while attempting to overthrow Somali transitional government
- The largest Somalian terror organization
- Affiliated with al Qaeda
- Has recruited members from many countries, including the U.S.
- 14 youths from Minnesota were charged in 2009 for trying to join the group
- Also claimed responsibility for 2010 attack in Uganda that killed 74 at a soccer match
- Main targets are Kenya and Uganda because they fund Somali government
Source: al-Jazeera America
‘She was so excited about her baby, I don’t know what to do… I’m lost, I’m lost,’ a hysterical Ms Kaur told the station between uncontrollable crying.
‘Images of the day keep flashing in front of my eyes. Dead bodies, injured people, wailing, crying, scared, Ms Kaur tweeted hours after the attack.
‘He stood there with a gun. Aiming it where the kids were. And the b*****d shot them,’ Ms Kaur tweeted.
Al-Shabaab, also known as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), claimed responsibility for the atrocity on Twitter.
The terrorist organization said that it had previously warned the Kenyan government that, if they did not remove military forces from Somalia, there would be ‘severe consequences’.
‘For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land,’ terrorists tweeted, before launching into a chilling account of the attack as it unfolded.
The militant group wrote: ‘The Mujahideen entered Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the Kenyan Kuffar inside their own turf.’
The organization claimed it had killed more than 100 Kenyan ‘kuffar’, a derogatory term used to describe non-Muslims.
‘Since our last contact, the Mujahideen inside the mall confirmed to @HSM_Press that they killed over 100 Kenyan kiffar & battle is ongoing.’ the tweets continued.
‘What Kenyans are witnessing today at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military, albeit largely miniscule in nature,’ read the final tweet.
Twitter soon suspended the Twitter account, citing terms of service regarding violence or threats. Twitter has declined any further comment.
Witnesses who escaped the attack said anyone who could recite a Muslim prayer to their captors was allowed to leave unscathed. But the attackers turned their guns on anyone who could not prove they were Islamic.
Chilling: al-Shabaab terrorists live-tweeted the attack until Twitter suspended their account
Protection: A mother and her children lie on the floor as they attempt to hide while the gunmen armed with automatic weapons go on the rampage
Terrified: A young girl in tears is led away form the terror by a police officer
Safety: Shoppers and shop assistants raise their hands as they are escorted out by armed police
Children: A soldier carries one of the survivors to safety as armed police hunt for the gunmen
Hunt: Armed police search customers taking cover inside a bathroom at the shopping centre
Another survivor claimed that the gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that only non-Muslims would be targeted when they opened fire at the upmarket mall of the Westlands district around midday on Saturday.
‘Militants went into the mall and executed people: women and children, anyone who got in their path,’ New York Times staff photographer Tyler HIcks told the paper in an interview. Mr Hicks was in the mall during the attack.
Pools of blood everywhere: This close up shows the hand of a man killed by the gunmen
Gunfight: Police are still trying to escort people away from the site where fighting continues
Hostages: Police say armed men are still in the building and are holding prisoners
Release: Hostages move out in a line after being rescued from the mall
Deadly: Armed police search Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi for the last remaining gunmen
Search: Police scour the centre with guns to try and locate the terrorists still holding hostages
Make-shift: An injured woman is wheeled out of the shopping center in a shopping cart
Shattered glass: A police officer tries to secure an area inside the Westgate Shopping Centre where gunmen went on a shooting spree in Nairobi
Shootout: Soldiers and armed police fire at the suspected terrorists as they try to wrest back control of the shopping centre
Special forces: The army and elite squads have been drafted in to help police flush out the gunmen
Shootout: A police officer takes up position at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi
Stand-off: Soldiers are still searching in and around the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi after the supposed terrorist attack
Police initially believed the attack was an attempt by about ten armed men to rob a shop. But Elijah Kamau, another survivor witness, said that the gunmen had announced that they were targeting non-Muslims as they began their attack at the center.
Some of those who escaped were ‘challenged to recite a Muslim prayer and were then let out’, according to Allan Sayers, who contacted MailOnline and said he was in the Westgate mall five minutes before the attack.
Mr Sayers said people were still in text and phone contact with some of the hostages.
Wounded: A security officer helps an injured woman away from the building
Relief: A woman who had been held hostage makes it out alive from the mall, where seven are still being held
Injured: A security officer talks to his colleagues shortly after being helped from the scene having been wounded
Critical: A victim is wheeled into the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi for emergency treatment
Rescue: A woman is shipped to an ambulance in a shopping trolley by centre staff
Devastating: Injured people receive assistance from bypassers at the scene of the shooting
Family mall: Customers who had planned a Saturday of shopping were forced to run following a shootout between unidentified armed men and the police
Terrorist: Somali Islamist attacks are not uncommon in Kenya, although police have not confirmed the identity of the attackers
Horror: Customers are evacuated from the shopping centre covered in blood
Victim: Rescuers attempt to evacuate a man injured in the shooting
Killings: The fate of the hostages remained unclear this morning despite earlier statements from police saying most of those held had been rescued
Help: A man carries a boy away from the scene of the carnage earlier today
Shock: Witnesses said a half dozen grenades went off along with volleys of gunfire that started at midday