Nairobi/New Delhi, Sep 22 — Two Indians were among 59 people killed in the Nairobi mall terror attack even as attackers continued to hold a number of hostages, police confirmed Sunday. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has condemned the attack.
The attack Saturday by militant group Al Shabaab was in retaliation against Kenya’s military intervention in neighbouring Somalia.
Over 150 people have been injured, some critically, in the attack.
In New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday wrote to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, condemning the “heinous and senseless” terrorist attack. While offering condolences to the bereaved families, he said he was confident Kenya “will have the strength and resilience to deal with this tragedy and respond firmly to the forces of terror … We stand ready to assist you in your efforts”.
Nearly 50 people remain unaccounted for in a tense standoff between Kenyan security forces and Al Shabaab suspects at the Westgate shopping mall, Xinhua reported citing Kenya Red Cross sources.
Kenyatta said the gunmen also killed one of his nephews and his fiancee.
In New Delhi, officials Sunday named the two Indians killed as Sridhar Natarajan, 40, from Tamil Nadu and an employee of a local pharmaceutical firm Harley’s Limited; and Paramshu Jain, eight, the son of Manoj Jain, the branch manager of Industrial Area Branch, Bank of Baroda (Kenya Limited).
Natarajan’s wife Manjula Sridhar was injured in the attack while the mother and sister of Paramshu – Mukta Jain, 38, and Poorvi Jain, 12 – were also injured.
The fourth injured is Natarajan Ramachandran, an employee of Flamingo Duty Free, Nairobi, according to official sources.
Senior officers of the Indian High Commission in Nairobi, including High Commissioner Sibabrata Tripathi, were present at the two major medical facilities that received casualties during the day – the Aga Khan University Hospital and M.P. Shah Hospital, sources said.
The dead included two French, two Canadians, three Britons, one Chinese and one Ghanaian.
The siege of the Westgate shopping mall, an elite shopping centre housing supermarkets, restaurants, banks and forex bureaus, began Saturday morning when the heavily armed militants, numbering between 10 and 15, stormed the well-secured facility spraying bullets on shoppers before taking hundreds hostage.
The attackers, including a woman, claimed they were on a revenge mission to avenge Kenya’s involvement in the Somalia conflict.
Kenya has sent thousands of troops to the war-torn country to fight the terror group and has liberated sections of the east African nation from the hands of the militia.
Hundreds of Kenyan police and troops have maintained a heavy presence at the besieged shopping mall and managed to rescue hundreds of shoppers taken hostage by the gang, including three women Sunday morning.
“The situation remains delicate but we are leaving nothing to chance to ensure the culprits do not go unpunished while at that the same time trying to save as many innocent lives as possible”, said Kenya’s security minister Joseph Ole Lenku.
With hundreds still trapped in the ill-fated facility, inspector general of police Joseph Kimaiyo promised police units and the army were up to the task and would ensure civilians held hostage were rescued.
Israeli forces joined the hunt for the attackers Sunday with sporadic gunfire being heard all day.
The Al Qaeda-allied militia have claimed responsibility for the attack while warning that more attacks would follow unless Kenya withdrew its troops from Somalia.
Kenya has stepped up security in shopping malls around the country while increasing security presence in all public spaces.
The incident has attracted condemnation from around the world with US and British governments saying they would offer Kenya any help needed to end the siege and punish the attackers.
“Kenya will not agree to be intimidated by cowardly terror groups out to kill and harm innocent people” said Kenyatta in a message to the nation.
The African Union (AU) strongly condemned the attack, vowing to counter terrorism throughout the continent.
The incident is the third terror act in Kenya with the first in 1998 when over 190 people died in an attack on the US embassy in Nairobi. In the second attack on an Israeli mission in the resort city of Mombasa near the Indian Ocean, 38 lives were lost.
(Maina Waruru can be reached at [email protected])