NBCNEWS.COM - Extended gunfire and at least seven large explosions resounded Monday
at an upscale shopping mall in Kenya where heavily armed militants were
still believed to be holding hostages on the third day of a standoff
that has left at least 62 people dead.
A column of thick, black
smoke rose from the mall. Kenyan authorities, who vowed the night before
to end the siege, said that they had the gunmen and hostages confined
to one section of the shopping center.
David Kimaiyo, the
inspector general of the Kenyan police, said on Twitter early Monday
that more hostages had been rescued and that authorities were
"increasingly gaining advantage of the attackers."
Details were hard to come by, but there were believed to be 10 to 15 militants still in the mall, and 10 to 15 hostages.
A Kenyan security source told NBC News that a military operation had
blown an opening in the back of the mall, partly as a diversionary
tactic. At least some of the gunfire was believed intended to scatter
crowds around the mall.
The explosions and a burst of gunfire were
heard at about 1 p.m. local time, or 6 a.m. ET. Three hours later came
another, extended volley of gunfire. Its nature was unclear.
Lenku, the Kenyan secretary of the interior, told reporters Monday that
two terrorists had been killed earlier in the day. He said that some of
the attackers who seized the mall were dressed as women.
militants launched their siege of the facility, Westgate Shopping Mall,
on Saturday afternoon. Al Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization
linked to al Qaeda, said that it was behind the assault and that it was
retribution for a 2011 push by Kenya into Somalia.
The Kenyan Red
Cross had put the number of dead at 69 but reduced the toll Monday to
62. It said that the earlier figure was the result of double counting as
bodies were moved from morgue to morgue.
Amateur video from the
attack on Saturday showed shoppers ducking for cover around aisles of
merchandise as loud volleys of gunfire echoed in the background.
seemed like anywhere you looked there would be another body," said
Tyler Hicks, a photographer for The New York Times who lives nearby and
raced to the scene. "Terrified people were crying, screaming, just
running for their lives."
The FBI said that it was investigating
whether as many as five Americans were among the team of terrorists who
captured the mall. But a senior FBI official said there was no hard
evidence of American involvement yet.
The attackers hurled
grenades and sprayed automatic fire, and witnesses said that they used
AK-47 rifles and wore belts of ammunition. In addition to the dead, at
least 175 people, including children, were hurt.
"They were shooting from the exit ramp, shooting everywhere," a woman
who gave her name as Cecilia told Reuters after emerging from the mall
Sunday. "I saw people being shot all around me, some with blood pouring
from bad wounds."
"I was just praying, praying, ‘God, keep me alive,' and that my day hadn't come," she said.
Five Americans were reported injured in the mall attack, including a San Diego woman.
Among the dead were four Britons and a Canadian diplomat, and British
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We should prepare ourselves for
further bad news."
Kenyan security forces were being helped by Israeli and Western experts. The complex has several Israeli-owned shops.
newspapers suggested that a woman known as the White Widow, a British
Islamic convert whose husband was one of the attackers in the 2005
terror assault on the London transit system, was behind the attack in
The woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, is known to have spent time
in Kenya. The British Foreign Office said that it was unwilling to
speculate on her involvement.
The mall siege is the largest attack
in Kenya since an East African cell of al Qaeda bombed the United
States Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people.
last major attack by al Shabaab outside Somalia was a double bombing in
Uganda targeting people watching the 2010 World Cup soccer final. Those
bombings killed 77 people.
Kenyan television reported that more
than 34 million Kenyan shillings, or about $400,000 had been raised
through text message donations for victims of the attack.
Friday, March 7 2014 12:46 AM EST2014-03-07 05:46:07 GMT
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