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UPDATE: Nairobi attack: Kenya forces comb Westgate site

Photo: BBC NEWS
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is making a statement on the ongoing siege at a shopping centre in Nairobi. Photo: BBC NEWS
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is making a statement on the ongoing siege at a shopping centre in Nairobi. Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
Photo: BBC NEWS
BBC NEWS

Security forces are combing the Nairobi shopping centre attacked by suspected al-Shabab militants, as they seek for a fourth day to secure the site.

An explosion and gunfire were heard at the Westgate complex on Tuesday morning, but later a senior police source said the operation was "over".

At least 65 people have been killed, including three soldiers.

Meanwhile, Kenya's foreign minister said "two or three" Americans and a British woman were among the attackers.

In an interview with the US TV programme PBS Newshour, Amina Mohamed said the Americans were 18 or 19 years old, of Somali or Arab origin, and lived "in Minnesota and one other place".

She said the Briton was a woman who had "done this many times before".

Ms Mohamed appeared to contradict earlier comments from Kenya's interior minister, who suggested that all the attackers were men - though some may have been dressed as women.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Nairobi says Ms Mohamed's remarks have fuelled media speculation about the possible involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the men who carried out attacks on London's transport system on 7 July 2005.

The Somali Islamist al-Shabab movement said it had carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

British officials said they would not be drawn on the identity of the attackers while investigations continued.

One senior police source told the BBC the stand-off had ended, but there was no official announcement.

Earlier, a Kenyan officer at the scene said he believed there could be two or three attackers left inside the building.

The interior ministry said security officials were in "mop-up operations" and that "we're very near the end", while the police said they were cleaning up explosives that had been planted in the area.

The ministry said it believed all hostages had been released - though messages on an al-Shabab Twitter feed said hostages were still being held and militants were "holding their ground".

The BBC understands from official sources that six of the attackers have been killed - three on Monday and three since midnight.

Officials said earlier that 10 people had been arrested in connection with the attack.

'Three heroes'

Between 12 and 15 militants stormed the Westgate centre on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing on shoppers and staff.

At least 18 foreigners are among the dead, including six Britons, as well as citizens from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.

The interior ministry said on Tuesday that three soldiers had succumbed to their injuries, and eight were still being treated. "We've lost three heroes," the ministry said on its Twitter account.

Nearly 200 people were wounded, including five Americans.

The Kenyan Red Cross said 51 people remained unaccounted for.

President Barack Obama called the attack a "terrible outrage" and said the US was providing all the co-operation it could to Kenya.

Thousands of Kenyans have been responding to appeals for blood donations.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia.

There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia as part of an African Union force supporting Somali government forces.

Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.

Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.

UN special representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay called on Tuesday for a fresh surge in African troops to Somalia to counter an estimated 5,000 al-Shabab fighters, Reuters news agency reported.

See previous story post on September 23, 2013:

UPDATE: Nairobi Westgate attack: Fresh gunfire inside complex

Heavy gunfire and explosions have been heard at the shopping centre in Nairobi where militants are said to be holding a number of hostages.

Sixty-nine people have been killed and more than 170 injured since the attack began in Kenya's capital on Saturday.

Between 10 and 15 attackers are still inside the Westgate shopping centre. The Somali al-Shabab movement has said it was behind the attack.

Reporters at the scene said there had been heavy and rapid bursts of fire.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Monday morning it was adjourning the trial of Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto on charges relating to violence following elections in 2007.

The court said Mr Ruto would be excused from the trial, which began earlier this month, for a week to return to Nairobi to help deal with the crisis.

'Speedy conclusion'

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, in Kenya's capital, says that the battle to end the long stand-off is continuing in earnest as conditions for those trapped inside the complex deteriorate.

An unnamed Kenyan security source told the AFP news agency early on Monday morning that an army assault was underway.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said he heard about 15 minutes of fierce gunfire which then subsided.

A photographer accompanying the correspondent said troops deployed around the mall were forced to duck for cover.

The photographer said it "sounded as if the shots were coming from somewhere around the mall, or were being fired from a vantage point in the mall".

The defence forces said on Twitter several hours ago: "All efforts are under way to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion."

Authorities have emphasised that it is a delicate operation as the safe rescue of the hostages is their top priority, says our correspondent.

Four soldiers had been injured in the attack by Sunday evening.

Kenyan military vehicles have been seen entering and leaving the area throughout Monday morning.

A Kenyan security official told the BBC that Kenyan forces were receiving foreign assistance, namely from Americans and Israelis.

'More bodies'

Overnight reports said that the gunmen were holed up in a supermarket.

Earlier, defence spokesman Col Cyrus Oguna said only a small number of hostages were still being held and most had been rescued.

As troops continued to clear the building, it was possible they would come across more bodies, Col Oguna warned on Sunday.

In a news conference on Sunday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the country was united and strong in adversity.

"The criminals are now located in one place within the building," he said.

"With the professionals on site, we have as good a chance to neutralise the terrorists as we could hope for," he said.

Mr Kenyatta said his nephew and the man's fiancee were among the dead.

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that three Britons have been killed, and says the number is likely to rise.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet on Monday morning that he was returning to London to chair a meeting of the UK's emergency response committee, Cobra.

Mr Kenyatta's deputy, Mr Ruto, is due to return to Kenya on a morning flight from the Netherlands after being excused from the ICC trial.

Mr Ruto, an ethnic Kalenjin, is accused of planning to set up militias to attack the Kikuyu ethnic group in violence following a disputed presidential poll in 2007 which saw then-President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, win a second term in office.

Mr Kenyatta also stands accused of developing plans to attack members of other ethnic groups and is himself due to stand trial in November.

Repeated threats

More than 1,000 people were inside the mall complex when the attack began on Saturday.

Dr Sunil Sachdeva, a dentist who runs a clinic inside the mall, described the scene as the attack unfolded.

"There was a tent where a cookery competition for children was carrying on and there were bodies lying under there," Dr Sachdeva said.

"There's a very famous radio presenter in Kenya, she was shot. The scene was carnage and there was a guy lying right in the corner. He was cut to sheds."

The wife of an American working for the US Agency for International Development was killed, US officials said.

Prominent Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor - who was attending a literary festival in Nairobi - also died, as did a Chinese woman.

French, Dutch, South African, Indian and Canadian nationals are also among the foreigners confirmed killed, along with a dual Australian-British national.

Thousands of Kenyans responded on Sunday to appeals for blood donations.

Al-Shabab says it carried out the attack in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

The group, which is part of the al-Qaeda network, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia.

There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011.

 

See previous story post on September 22:

Kenya standoff: At least 59 dead

- Witnesses report seeing many bodies strewn round tables of unfinished fast food - with pop music left playing in the background.

At least 59 people were killed and 175 injured in Saturday's attack on a Nairobi shopping centre, the Kenyan interior minister has said.

Joe Lenku said 1,000 people had managed to escape from the Westgate centre after the assault by suspected al-Shabab militants.

He added that between 10 to 15 attackers were still in the building.

It is not known how many civilians remain trapped there - either as hostages or hiding from the militants.

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that three Britons are among the dead, and says the number is likely to rise.

French, Chinese, Ghanaian and Canadian citizens are also among the foreigners confirmed killed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called it "an absolutely sickening and despicable attack of appalling brutality".

There is a heavy military presence both in and around the shopping centre. Sporadic gunfire can be heard from inside.

There are reports that the gunmen are currently holed up in a supermarket.

The Somali militant group al-Shabab says it carried out the attack on the upmarket shopping centre in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

Some witnesses said the militants told Muslims to leave and said non-Muslims would be targeted."They came and said: 'If you are Muslim, stand up. We've come to rescue you'," said Elijah Lamau.

There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011.

'Watching and monitoring'

Kenyan officials said "major operations" were under way, with police and soldiers preparing an apparent bid to bring an end to the stand-off.

But Mr Lenku stressed that the operation was "very, very delicate".

"The priority is to save as many lives as possible,'' he said.

The BBC's Will Ross at the scene said it would be extremely difficult for the military do a quick raid on the building because of all the people inside.

Al-Shabab has claimed there are at least 36 hostages, but this cannot be independently confirmed. There are also likely to be people hiding away from the attackers.

Our correspondent says the full extent of the attack will not be known until the military is back in control.

Meanwhile, people are still escaping from the building.

Cecile Ndwiga got out on Sunday morning, saying she had been hiding under a vehicle in the basement car park but could not leave earlier because "the shootout was all over - left, right".

The authorities have asked journalists to exercise caution when reporting military developments because the gunmen might be monitoring the media.

The authorities are also appealing for Kenyans to donate blood. Big queues have formed at a Nairobi donation centre.

The attack began at about 12:00 local time (09:00 GMT) on Saturday, when the militants entered the Westgate centre, throwing grenades and firing automatic weapons. A children's day was being held at the time - children are among those reported killed.

He said the Muslims left with their hands up, and then the gunmen shot two people.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says a security source told him that at least one of the attackers was a woman who appeared to have a leadership role.

Foreigners among dead

In a televised address on Saturday evening, Mr Kenyatta said: "We shall hunt down the perpetrators. We shall get to them and we shall punish them for this heinous crime."

He said he had "personally lost family members in the Westgate attack".

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there would "undoubtedly" be British nationals caught up in Saturday's events, while the US State Department said it had reports that American citizens were injured in what it called "a senseless act of violence".

Prominent Ghanian poet Kofi Awoonor - who was was attending a literary festival in Nairobi - also died, as has a Chinese woman.

Security experts are reported to have warned that the Israeli-owned complex was in danger of being subjected to a terror attack.

Al-Shabab, which is part of the al-Qaeda network, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia.

This is one of the worst incidents in Kenya since the attack on the US embassy in August 1998.

 

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