Kenya mall attack: As it happened

Al Shabaab, the militant group behind the four-day takeover of the Westgate mall in Nairobi, claimed on Wednesday that the Kenyan government forces used explosives in carrying out "a demolition" of the building, burying 137 hostages.

By Deepak Nagpal | Updated: Sep 26, 2013, 00:12 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Deepak Nagpal and Kamna Arora

11:00 pm: `Foreigners in Kenya were legitimate target`

Al Shabaab, the armed Somali Islamic extremist group that attacked a shopping mall in Kenya, said that foreigners were a "legitimate target" and confirmed witness accounts that gunmen tried to let Muslims go free while killing or taking the others captive.

In an e-mail exchange with The Associated Press, al Shabaab said the jihadis "carried out a meticulous vetting process" so the Muslims would not be harmed.

10:45 pm: Kenya attack carefully planned: Report

The Somalia-based militants, who stormed a Kenyan mall had a detailed plan and had hidden weapons at the scene beforehand, according to US officials cited by the New York Times on Wednesday.

According to the report, a hand-picked group of English-speaking fighters from al Shabaab, an Islamist rebel group, had trained for the assault in Somalia for weeks beforehand.

7:27 pm: 10 attackers held, says Interior Minister

Kenyan Interior Minister says it is believed five attackers were killed and 10 now being held following end of shopping centre siege. The government is not able to confirm if any Britons were among the militants who attacked the shopping centre, added Joseph Ole Lenku.

Lenku told reporters that authorities cannot confirm the nationalities of the terrorists until forensic testing is complete. He said the United States, Israel, Britain, Germany, and Canada are helping in the mall forensic investigation.

7:00 pm: Kenyan police search mall wreckage

Bomb disposal experts and investigators searched through the wreckage of a Kenyan shopping mall on Wednesday.

"Forensic investigators are on the site now," said a senior official from the National Disaster Operations Centre, speaking near the mall and adding that foreign agents were on the scene. He did not identify the agents.

"The bodies are still lying there in the rubble. We don`t know how many exactly," said the NDOC official.

5:50 pm: Interior Minister thanks "great people of Kenya"

Kenya`s Secretary of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government Joseph Ole Lenku tweets: "Thank you so much great people of kenya.your gallant efforts and solidarity spurred us on during this enormous challenge.God bless kenya(sic)"

4:00 pm: `Terrorism is terrorism`, says Muslim group

One of the most prominent and controversial Muslim-American advocacy group has said `who cares` if American jihadists were involved in the Nairobi mall massacre.

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told The New York Post that it did not matter who was involved in the shopping mall siege, which killed over 60.

He said that terrorism is terrorism, whether it is Americans involved or anyone from any nation or background. "Who cares?"

3:00 pm: 137 hostages buried alive in Kenya mall?

Al Shabaab, the militant group behind the four-day takeover of the Westgate mall in Nairobi, claimed on Wednesday that the Kenyan government forces used explosives in carrying out "a demolition" of the building, burying 137 hostages.

In a tweet from an account believed to be genuine, al Shabaab also claimed that "having failed to defeat the mujahideen inside the mall, the Kenyan government disseminated chemical gases to end the siege".

Government spokesman Manoah Esipisu immediately denied the claim, saying that no chemical weapons were used and that the official civilian death toll remains 61. He says three floors of the building collapsed after a fire started by the al Shabaab attackers caused structural weakness.

Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab also warned the Kenyan government that the mall attack will be `only the beginning` if it fails to withdraw its security forces from Somalia.
2:20 pm: Gunshots ring out at Nairobi mall

Gunshots rang out from the upscale mall in Kenya`s capital on Wednesday morning, the day after the President declared an end to a four-day siege by Islamic militants.

Government spokesman Manoah Esipisu told The Associated Press the shots came from Kenyan forces going room to room in the large Westgate Mall, firing protectively before entering unknown territory.

"During sanitization once you take control of the place if you go to a room where you haven`t visited before you shoot first to make sure you aren`t walking into an ambush," he said. "But there hasn`t been any gunfire from the terrorists for more than 36 hours."

But a top security official said even around the time President Uhuru Kenyatta told the nation in a televised address that "we have ashamed and defeated our attackers" on Tuesday night, three shots rang out at the mall.

He said Kenyan authorities are still trying to determine where those shots came from.

Fears persisted that some of the attackers could still be alive and loose inside the rubble of the mall, a vast complex that had shops for retailers like Bose, Nike and Adidas, as well as banks, restaurants and a casino.

A high-ranking security official involved in the investigations said it would take time to search the whole mall before declaring that the terrorist threat had been crushed.

2:10 pm: Foreign forensic experts to aid in probe

The Kenyan government said forensic experts from the United States, Britain and Israel would be assisting them in their investigation of the attack.

The process of retrieving bodies from inside the mall still had not begun on Wednesday morning — possibly indicating that the situation was not yet considered secure — though a city morgue official said his workers were preparing to go into the building soon.

2:00 pm: Briton held in Nairobi

A British national has been arrested in Nairobi following the mall siege that killed at least 67 people, the Foreign Office in London said.

According to the Daily Mail newspaper, a 35-year-old Briton of Somali origin was arrested at Nairobi`s Jomo Kenyatta airport as he attempted to leave Kenya on a Turkish Airlines flight.

The Daily Mail said the man had attracted attention at the airport because he had bruising to his face, was wearing dark glasses and was behaving suspiciously.

The newspaper quoted Kenyan officials as saying the man`s British passport appeared to be genuine and it contained a Kenyan visa, although there was no stamp indicating when and how he had entered the country.

1:50 pm: Explosive experts scour Kenya mall

Explosive experts searched on Wednesday for possible booby-traps in the wreckage of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

"They are checking for any potential explosive devices left behind," a security source said, adding that specialist remote-controlled demining robots were on hand.

Teams of sniffer dogs are also at the site and will check not only for explosives, but for the grim expectation of the bodies of over 60 missing victims.

10:40 am: 18 foreigners killed

The BBC reports that at least 18 foreigners were killed in the mall siege. Their nationalities include six Britons as well as citizens from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.

10:30 am: Forensic experts at attack site

CNN reported that forensic experts have arrived at the Westgate mall – site of the four-day long siege – to look for clues into the attack.

"Now it is for the forensic and criminal experts," BBC quoted police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi as saying.

10:10 am: Attackers didn`t want to negotiate

CNN reported a senior Kenyan government official as saying that the attackers actually didn`t want to take hostages but were out there for blood.

"They were not interested in hostage-taking," the official said as per CNN. "They only wanted to kill."

"We wanted to negotiate. They were not responding," added the Kenyan official. "They didn`t even respond."

10:00 am: Three-day mourning in Kenya

Kenyans have begun three days of mourning for the 67 people killed in the four-day siege of the Westgate mall in Nairobi.

9:30 am: Still unclear how many died

While the mall siege is over, it is unclear how many more hostages may have died with the Somali Islamist attackers buried in the rubble.

Declaring final victory over the al Qaeda-linked gunmen from al Shabaab who stormed the Westgate shopping centre on Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that three floors in a part of the mall had collapsed near the end of the operation, leaving an unknown number of bodies under steel and concrete.

It was not clear what caused the structure to come down.

It is also unclear how many foreigners may still be missing.

9:00 am: Five militants killed

President Kenyatta announced that five militants had been killed in the operation, while six security personnel also lost their lives in the four days of fighting.

Sixty-one civilians had so far been confirmed dead, Kenyatta added.

Kenyan officials declined to say how many of 63 people whom the Red Cross had earlier classed as unaccounted for may also have died in a showdown with guerrillas, who had threatened to kill their hostages and go down fighting.

Eleven people suspected of involvement with the well-planned and executed assault were in custody, the Kenyan President added. But he did not say how many, if any, were gunmen taken alive and how many may have been people arrested elsewhere.

8:30 am: `No woman involved in operation`

Al Shabaab denied that any women took part, after British sources said the fugitive widow of one of the 2005 London suicide bombers might have some role.

It was also unclear whether intelligence reports of American or British gunmen would be confirmed.

7:00 am: Silence follows siege

The shattered mall, an imposing, Israeli-built symbol of a new prosperity for some in Africa while many remain mired in poverty, lay largely silent overnight, after days of gunfire, explosions and bloodshed.

"The operation is now over," President Kenyatta told Kenyans in a televised address. "We have ashamed and defeated our attackers."

6:00 am: Tales of horror, bravery

Survivors of the assault told tales of horror and narrow escapes. Some made it out after hours, even days, of hiding in terror.

The uncle of one British four-year-old told the Sun newspaper his nephew had told a militant "You`re a very bad man", as the gunman let some children and their mother go.

Many Kenyans said the bloodshed has helped foster a greater sense of national unity.

"We are all talking about it. The one good thing is that the whole of Kenya has become one, except for al Shabaab," said Vipool Shah, who helped pull bodies out of the mall.