Standoff over hostages, firing continues at Kenya mall

Nairobi/New Delhi Sep 22 — The standoff between gunmen and Kenyan security forces over hostages continued Sunday, about 20 hours after the shooting spree broke out around Saturday noon at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi and claimed 39 lives, leaving over 150 injured.

Gunshots could still be heard from the Westgate Shopping Mall from time to time, Xinhua reported Sunday morning.

Kenyan security forces are entering the mall, trying to rescue the hostages alive.

But the number of hostages taken is still unknown, Kenya’s KTN TV station reported, citing the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre.

The hostages were being held in multiple locations and the gunmen were contained in one location, the report said.

Two Indians, including an eight-year-old boy, were among those killed. Four other Indians were injured, an Indian government spokesman said in New Delhi Sunday.

Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the external affairs ministry, said two Indians – 40-year-old Sridhar Natarajan, who belonged to Tamil Nadu, and eight-year-old Paramshu Jain, the son of a Bank of Baroda local branch manager – were killed.

“According to the Indian diplomats who are at medical facilities treating those injured in Nairobi attack, 4 Indians injured, 2 others sadly died,” Akbaruddin posted on Twitter.

Among the four injured Indians injured two women, an adult male and a girl.

Somalia-based militant group Al Shabab claimed responsibility for Saturday’s shooting spree. It said it had warned the Kenyan government that failure to pull out its troops from Somalia would lead to serious consequences.

Akbaruddin said the Indian mission in Nairobi was in touch with the families of those killed and injured, and would provide all help.

The husband of a woman trapped in the Nakumatt supermarket on the ground floor of the mall told Xinhua that she sent him a message through cellphone which said there were about 60 to 70 people trapped in the supermarket.

The message was sent around 3.43 a.m. Relatives of some other hostages said there were many bodies in the supermarket.

A Kenyan police officer told Xinhua that the gunmen have been cornered but the standoff was still going on as they were holding hostages.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address late Saturday that the gunmen killed at least 39 people and injured more than 150 others.

“With the entire nation, I stand with the families of those who have lost their lives and extend every Kenyan’s deepest condolences,” Kenyatta said.

An emotional Kenyatta also confirmed that he lost some of his very close family members.

“I know how you feel, having also personally lost very close family members. I ask god to give all of us comfort as we confront this tragedy,” he said.

Kenyatta made the speech as the standoff continued into the night between police officers and the armed men in the mall, hours after the shootout began in the morning.

Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) secretary general Abbas Gullet told Xinhua in Nairobi earlier that the rescue operation was still underway, and expressed fears that there would be more casualties since some of the shoppers were still holed up in the mall.

However, Kenya’s interior ministry was not sure whether there were hostages inside the mall.

Somalia’s militant group Al Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said in its Twitter account “HSM Press Office” that “the Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar inside their own turf”.

“Since our last contact, the Mujahideen inside the mall confirmed to @HSM_Press that they killed over 100 Kenyan kuffar & battle is ongoing,” the group said.

“HSM has on numerous occasions warned the Kenyan government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences.”

“The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia,” the group said.


Source: IANS

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