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Kenya mall siege: Most hostages rescued, gunfight on

Last updated on: September 23, 2013 12:35 IST

Kenya mall siege: Most hostages rescued, gunfight on

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Two Indians were among 68 people killed by heavily armed Somali Islamist militants, who stormed a packed mall in Nairobi and engaged in fierce fighting with Kenyan soldiers, as the bloody siege continued for a third day.

At least 68 people are now confirmed to have been killed in the ongoing siege, Kenya Red Cross said today, after nine more bodies were recovered.

Four Indians, including two women and a girl, were among nearly 200 people injured in the brazen attack on the part Israeli-owned Westgate centre launched by the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab group on Sunday.

There were conflicting reports about the number of militants inside the four-storey mall. Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenkua said there were 10 to 15 heavily armed men while some witnesses said they had seen only four men in black, their heads covered in scarves.

Kenyan security forces have taken control over major parts of the mall building, stated a CNN report, adding that at least 10 hostages were feared held by the militants.

The Kenyan government has stated that most of the hostages have been rescued.

Al-Shabab's Twitter account named nine of the attackers involved in the strike and claimed that some of them hailed from United States, United Kingdom and Canada.Kenya siege continues for 3rd day: Gunfight on

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Image: A mother and her children hide from gunmen at Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi
Photographs: Siegfried Modola/Reuters

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The Kenyan government and Western diplomatic sources said the militants were holding about 30 hostages. Helicopters were seen circling overhead and there was a strong military presence in and around the mall.

Israeli special forces reached the scene on Sunday and worked with their Kenyan counterparts in the hostage crisis, Kenyan government sources were quoted as saying by CNN.

As the gunfire continued, troops evacuated over 1,000 people from the centre, after the masked militants launched the deadliest assault since Al Qaeda bombed the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing over 200 people.

"We still have hostages in the mall, and this makes the operation delicate. We have 59 people who have been killed so far," Interior Minister Lenku said earlier.

Nearly 200 people were wounded in the attack and Lenku said 175 people had been taken to the hospital.

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Image: Policemen search a man for weapons as he walks out of Westgate Shopping Centre
Photographs: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

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Two Indians, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed and four other community members injured in the attack, an external affairs ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

The dead Indians were identified as 40-year-old Sridhar Natarajan, employee of a pharmaceutical firm, and Paramshu Jain, son of a manager of the local Bank of Baroda branch.

The injured Indians are Natarajan's wife Manjula Sridhar, Paramshu Jain's mother Mukta Jain, 12-year-old Poorvi Jain and Natarajan Ramachandran, an employee of Flamingo Duty Free.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today condemned the attack in a letter to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and said the incident is "a stark reminder that the persisting menace of terrorism remains a formidable challenge that calls for a concerted and sustained response from the global community".

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Image: A soldier carries a child to safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree at Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
Photographs: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

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"I was deeply shocked and saddened by the brutal terror attack yesterday on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi...India condemns in the strongest terms this heinous and senseless assault, which has snuffed out so many innocent lives, including nationals of both our countries," Singh said.

Dr Singh directed the external affairs ministry to extend all help to Indian nationals who were victims of the attack, and offered assistance to Kenyan authorities to deal with the situation.

Following the attack, senior officers of the Indian Mission, including the High Commissioner, have been present at Aga Khan University Hospital and M P Shah Hospital, the two major medical facilities that received causalities.

The High Commission officials are pro-actively in touch with members of the family of those who tragically died or have been injured to provide all necessary assistance. They are also in constant touch with Kenyan authorities and leaders of the Indian community in Kenya.

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Image: Soldiers and armed police hunt gunmen inside the mall
Photographs: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

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There are nearly 70,000 Indians and Indian origin community people in Kenya.

In a televised address to the nation, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said insurgents are terrorists and cowards and that he had "personally lost very close family members in the Westgate attack".

He said a nephew and his fiancée were among the killed in the ongoing siege.

"They shall not get away with their despicable and beastly acts. We will punish the masterminds swiftly and indeed very painfully," Kenyatta said in an emotional speech.

"Kenya would remain as brave and invincible as the lion on our coat of arms," he said, pleading with Kenyans to donate blood for the injured.

"We are doing everything reasonably possible to make sure that the hostages who are still in the building come out safely," the interior minister said.

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Image: Women carrying children run for safety
Photographs: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

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"The Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today (Saturday) at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar (infidels) inside their own turf," the Islamist militants said, after which its Twitter account was suspended.

"What Kenyans are witnessing at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military," the group said.

"Kenya will not get peace unless they pull their military out of Somalia," Shebab's spokesman Ali Mohamoud Rage said in a radio address.

The militants said the carnage was in direct retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are battling the Islamists. There are nearly 4,000 Kenyan troops in Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011.

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Image: An injured woman is helped out of the Westgate Shopping Centre
Photographs: Siegfried Modola/Reuters

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