Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha and Himanshu Kapoor
Nairobi: Kenyan Red Cross on Sunday evening said that the death toll in Nairobi mall attack has reached 68. According to reports, about 30 people are still being held as hostages inside the mall. The grim numbers have risen as the Kenyan security forces continue to be mired in a hostage standoff with al Shabab militants who stormed the Westgate mall on Saturday.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has said that terror attack masterminds will be punished "swiftly, and indeed very painfully
Kenya`s Interior Minister Joseph Ole said that the Somali militants were believed to be 10-15 in number and their identity was being investigated.
Also Read: Nairobi mall attack: Details of the victims
Authorities said that the militants were keeping an `unknown number of people hostages` at various locations inside the mall.
Meanwhile, the Israeli forces have joined Kenyan efforts to end a deadly siege by the militants.
Kenyatta said he had "personally lost family members in the Westgate attack".
"We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get to them and we shall punish them for this heinous crime…” he said.
Renowned Ghanaian poet and statesman Kofi Awoonor was also among the dead.
Two contingents of Army special forces were rushed to the mall to rescue the hostages.
The responsibility for the attack has been claimed by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabab militants who claimed that 100 people have been killed inside the mall.
“The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders,” al-Shabab said on Twitter.
In another tweet the militants said: “For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land #Westgate.”
According to the militant group al Shabab, the attack was in retaliation to the support given by Kenya military to UN mission in Somalia.
Kenya`s troops are assisting the African Union troops in Somalia which target al Shabab militants.
The attack was staged by masked gunmen who entered the mall at 12:00 noon and started firing grenades.
According to the witnesses, the militants told the Muslims to leave and then fired shots on the rest.
The attack seems to be the worst terrorist attack in Nairobi since al Qaeda attacked the US embassy in 1998, killing more than 200.
Two French, two Canadian including one diplomat and two Indians were dead in the attack while foure Americans were reportedly injured.
The attack evoked worldwide condemnation with the US and UNSC slamming the attack.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the despicable terrorist attack on innocent civilians today at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.