Monday, 23 September 2013

Kenyan security forces in “final assault” on terrorist-held mall

Kenyan security forces last evening were preparing what they described as a “final assault” on the luxury shopping mall in Nairobi where armed Islamic militants were still holding about thirty hostages. As night fell on Nairobi, loud explosions could be heard from the Westgate mall where the members of the Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab had been barricaded since shooting their way into the mall on Saturday. The Kenyan authorities say that so far they have counted sixty-eight dead, 175 injured, and forty-nine missing, but that toll will likely rise.
Shoppers flee from al-Shabaab attackers at Nairobi's Westgate mall // Source: thegioihot.com
Unconfirmed reports said that three of the attackers were U.S. citizens of Somali descent
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Kenyan security forces last evening were preparing what they described as a “final assault” on the luxury shopping mall in Nairobi where armed Islamic militants were still holding about thirty hostages. As night fell on Nairobi, loud explosions could be heard from the Westgate mall where the members of the Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab had been barricaded since shooting their way into the mall on Saturday. “This will end tonight. Our forces will prevail,” the Kenyan government’s Disaster Operation Centre said late last night.

The Guardian reports that the heavily armed militants opened fire as they approached to 4-story mall around lunchtime on Saturday, while the mall was full of weekend shoppers. The Kenyan authorities say that so far they have counted sixty-eight dead and 175 injured. The Kenya Red Cross, citing the police as their source, said that the number of missing persons was forty-nine. The authorities added the toll would likely be higher by the time the Kenyan security forces take control of the building.

The New York Times reports that several witnesses said the attackers had shouted for Muslims to run away while they picked off other shoppers – those who did not identify themselves as Muslims — executing them one by one.

Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost a nephew in the attack, promised to punish those behind it “swiftly and painfully,” and said Kenya “would not relent on the war on terror.”

Al-Shabaab spokesman in Somalia, while saying he was not negotiating on behalf of members of his group who took over the mall, demanded Kenya withdraw its troops from Somalia.

“If Uhuru wants peace from us, he should withdraw his troops from Somalia,” spokesman Abu Musab told Reuters.

Somalia’s central government does not control most of the country, and al-Shabaab and other Islamic militants operate freely there. In the past three years, as al-Shabaab began to attack targets insiede Kenya, Somalia’s neighbor to the south, the Kenyan military responded by sending its troop into Somalia to chase the militants. In the last year, Kenya has established semi-permanent military bases inside Somalia in order to fight the Islamists more effectively.

Kenyan security sources said there were at least ten attackers, including one woman, but there could have been as many as fifteen.

Unconfirmed reports said that three of the attackers were U.S. citizens of Somali descent.

Representative Peter King (R-New York), a member of the House Homeland Security Cmmittee, said on Sunday that the al-Shabaab may have recruited up to fifty people from Somali communities in the United States.

The Guardian quotes King to say that said between fifteen and twenty of the Somali Americans recruited by al-Shabaab remain active.

King, who likened the incident to the 2011 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, said that there is a concern that some may return and “use their abilities on the U.S.”

The Kenyan authorities also expressed concerns that at least some of the attackers escaped among the more than 1,000 shoppers who were evacuated in the middle of the fighting and chaos.

Although the major assault on the mall began in early evening, the Kenyan security forces began exchanging fire with the militants early Sunday. The authorities said the purpose of these exchanges was to drain the militants’ ammunition supplies.

Kenyan State House spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, confirmed that the government had received offers of help in the anti-terror operation from many nations including the United Kingdom and Israel, one of whose citizens was reported to own Westgate.

“We welcome all offers of help but this is a Kenyan operation,” he said

Source: Homeland Security News Wire

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