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'At least 22 killed' in mall attack

At least 22 people have been killed in an attack at a shopping mall in the capital Nairobi, a Kenya Red Cross official said.

Reporters at the Westgate Mall, in the affluent Westlands area, earlier said they had seen at least 10 bodies. Gunmen threw grenades and then opened fire in the attack.

Nairobi police chief Benson Kibue said it was a terrorist attack and there were about 10 terrorists involved.

Large pockets of people trapped inside the centre came streaming out over the course of an hour. At least half a dozen were bloodied, and many clutched small children. Shopping centre guards used trolleys to wheel out several wounded children and at least one man.

Rob Vandijk, who works at the Dutch embassy, said he was eating at a restaurant in the shopping centre when attackers lobbed hand grenades inside the building. He said gunfire then burst out and people screamed as they dropped to the ground.

Manish Turohit, 18, says he saw gunmen with AK-47s and vests with hand grenades on them inside the centre. He escaped after hiding in the parking garage for two hours. A group of people remain in hiding inside. Some of those running from the scene said the attack may have been a bank robbery gone wrong. Cars were left abandoned outside the centre after the attack started at around midday local time.

One witness to the attack claimed the gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted. Elijah Kamau said the gunmen made the statement about Muslims as they began their attack at the centre. Somali's rebel group al-Shabaab vowed in late 2011 to carry out a large-scale attack in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya's sending of troops into Somalia to fight the Islamic insurgents.

The Red Cross official, Abbas Gullet, said there are likely to be more dead from the attack that saw gunmen using grenades and gunfire.

Kenya's military surrounded the Westgate mall hours after the midday attack.

Al Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabaab is claiming responsibility for the deadly attack. A statement from al-Shabaab on its official Twitter feed said the attacks are retribution for military action by Kenya inside Somalia. The group said it is now shifting the battlefield to Kenya. The group said its fighters entered Nairobi's upmarket Westgate Mall at around noon and were still inside more than nine hours later. Kenyan military special forces had entered the mall in an effort to end the standoff. Nairobi's mortuary superintendent, Sammy Nyongesa Jacob, said at least 23 bodies were brought in. He said Africans, Asians and Caucasians were among the dead.Al-Shabaab claimed its fighters had killed 100 people, but the group's claims are frequently exaggerated.

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