Kenyan military forces continue to battle armed terrorists inside a Nairobi mall, as a terrorist assault on Saturday has turned into a three-day hostage situation. Thick black smoke could be seen rising from the Westgate Mall on Monday afternoon, after a series of explosions followed by heavy gunfire could be heard in the vicinity. Kenyan police say the managed to rescue some of the remaining hostage, but the stand-off with Somali-based terrorists continues.
Kenyan military forces say they have secured most of the mall and are working to bring an end to the crisis, but the situation is still not fully resolved as Monday afternoon. We'll have more updates as they become available.
The attack began at mid-day on Saturday when a group of 10-15 armed gunmen stormed the popular mall in the Kenyan capital, killing dozens of people. The assailants reportedly targeted Kenya citizens and non-Muslims (letting those who could recite the Muslim creed, or Shahada, go free) before taking several hostages and holing up in side. At least 62 people are confirmed dead, with more than 180 injured. Several members of the Kenya police and army were injured and unknown number of terrorists have been killed.
The terrorist group al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack, making a rare move outside their own country's borders in retaliation for Kenyan military interventions inside Somalia. (Because of the instability created by the ongoing war between Somalia's government and al-Shabab, the Kenyan army has taken the lead role in U.N. and African Union peacekeeping missions inside Somalia in the last five years.)
The group claims several foreigners, including some Americans, had participated in the attack with them, and there were even reports that a white woman was among the hostage takers, though the allegations are unconfirmed. Speculation is that she might be the English-born widow of one of the suicide bombers responsible for the 2005 London subway attack, however, other reports say that the attackers were all men, but some merely disguised themselves as women.
Inset photo: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Update: 1:30 p.m.: Video journalist Nichole Sobecki has written a harrowing account — with even more harrowing images — from inside the mall, as she followed a group of security forces as they tried to clear the building.