22 Sep 2013

Nairobi mall attack will ‘end tonight’, officials say

Kenyan officials launch a major offensive to take the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi back from al-Shabaab militants – saying “this will end tonight”.

Kenya’s Disaster Operations Centre said a major assault was ongoing which would end the siege. It came 30 hours after militants stormed the upscale shopping centre, throwing grenades and firing guns, in an attack that has killed at east 68 people.

Two helicopters were circling the shopping centre as the assault began, and a loud explosion was reported to have been heard

“This will end tonight. Our forces will prevail. Kenyans are standing firm against aggression, and we will win,” Kenya’s Disaster Operations Centre said on Twitter.

The launch comes as the death tol in the attack rises to 68. The FCO said it had received confirmation that three British nationals were killed in the gun and grenade attack, which was launched on Saturday.

A statement added that the number of Britons confirmed killed in the attack was likely to rise as more details unfold.

A statement said: “The next of kin of those nationals have been informed. The number of British nationals confirmed as killed is likely to rise as further information becomes available.”

Muslim shoppers were allegedly told to leave the centre before the shooting began.

The government’s crisis committee COBR met met on Sunday, chaired by British Foreign Secretary William Hague. The government has sent a rapid deployment team from London to Nairobi to provide consular support, and staff from Addis Ababa have also been sent to Nairobi to assist.

The FCO said the UK High Commission in Nairobi has consular staff at the site and nearby hospitals.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the incident was “an absolutely sickening and despicable attack of appalling brutality.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Those who carried out this attack will be condemned across the globe. The cold-blooded killing of innocent women, children and men is as despicable as it is shocking.”


Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab – affiliated with Al-Quaeda – have claimed the Westgate shopping centre attack. English-language tweets from the Somali group on Sunday morning – @HSM_PressOffice – said that the deaths were retribution for Kenyan involvement in Somalia.

The Kenyan interior minister said that they were trying to make contact with the gunmen in the mall, but the Twitter feed, claiming to have contact with besieged gunmen, says they are not open to negotiation.

Al-Shabaab told Channel 4 News that foreigners are not safe inside Kenya.

‘Senseless act’

The attack, which involved several American citizens, has been internationally condemned – called “a senseless act of violence” by the US State Department, and “callous, cowardly and brutal,” by Foreign Secretary William Hague.

David Cameron has spoken to the Kenyan Prime Minister and and the UK Foreign Office report that consular reinforcement teams are on their way to Nairobi. It is believed that no Britons were involved in the incident, but the Foreign Office are trying to establish more facts.

They would like us to retreat into a closed, fearful and fractured society – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta is believed to have lost close family relatives in the attack, as reported by Kenya’s KBC news. President Kenyatta told the station:

“We have overcome terrorist attacks before. In fact, we have fought courageously and defeated them within and outside our borders. We will defeat them again. Terrorism in and of itself, is the philosophy of cowards.”

The president said: “They would like us to retreat into a closed, fearful and fractured society where trust, unity and enterprise are difficult to muster” he added.

Gunmen were reported to have targeted non-Mulsims at the upmarket Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi (picture: Reuters)

Search for wounded

Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Gullet told Channel 4 News on Saturday night that he expects the number of wounded to climb as soldiers continue to battle attackers in the main Nakumatt supermarket.

“The fighting is still going on so we assume there will be more wounded,” Mr Gullet said.

It was a very busy Saturday at Westgate, with an event outside attracting large numbers of visitors. Mr Gullet said the dead have been removed from the site and taken to nearby mortuaries while soldiers and rescue teams search for people hiding in the mall’s many shops.

The Somali militant group vowed in 2011 to carry out a large-scale attack in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to fight them. They reiterated their grievances on Saturday.