Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Hostages held in mall terror attack

Security officers keep a crowd under control outside the Westgate Mall, an upscale shopping centre in Nairobi (AP)

Kenyan security forces remain locked in a tense stand-off with armed terrorists in a Nairobi shopping centre as the death toll continued to rise.

A day after 10 to 15 gunmen - believed to be Islamic extremists - stormed the Westgate Mall attacking shoppers with guns and grenades, an unknown number of hostages remained in the building.

Government officials said at least 59 people were confirmed dead and 175 others were wounded in the atrocity, while about 1,000 were rescued from the upmarket mall.

Joseph Lenku, the interior Cabinet secretary, said Kenyan forces had control of the security cameras inside the mall and military troops and police had surrounded the building.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged to hunt down and punish the terrorists behind the brutal attack in Nairobi. In a national televised address he said he had "personally lost family members in the Westgate attack".

Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the outrage at the mall in the affluent Westlands district of the capital, which is popular with expats.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britons had undoubtedly been caught up in the "callous and cowardly and brutal" assault by a heavily-armed gang who singled out non-Muslims.

Mr Hague said "we should be ready for that and aware of that" as he revealed that the Government's emergency response committee Cobra had met and a rapid deployment team was being sent to Kenya to help.

Two Canadians, including one diplomat, and two French women have been confirmed as among the dead. The US State Department also said four American citizens were reported injured.

In his speech, Mr Kenyatta said security forces were in the process of "neutralising the attackers and securing the mall" but he said it was a "delicate" operation. He urged Kenyans to "remain calm and vigilant" and asked them to donate blood to help treat the injured.

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