The Giants Club is holding its inaugural summit in Laikipia, Kenya, from April 29 to April 30, to discuss how to save Africa’s elephants from extinction.
The exclusive forum brings together African Heads of State, global business leaders and elephant protection experts to secure Africa’s remaining elephant populations and the landscapes they depend on.
The summit will be led by the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
As well as heads of state, the conservation group will bring together business leaders and scientists.
The Giants Club was founded by President Uhuru Kenyatta with the presidents of Botswana, Gabon, Kenya and Uganda, with support from Space for Giants and its patron, Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers. The body was formed to combat the poaching crisis by bringing together visionary leaders who can work together to provide the political will, financial resources and technical capacity required to protect Africa’s remaining elephant populations.
The summit is to be staged at Mount Kenya Safari Club. Delegates will also be invited to visit local conservation projects to see practical examples of Kenya’s leadership in the area of wildlife protection. Attendance is by invitation only.
According to experts, Africa’s elephant population has fallen by 90% over the past century. They warn that the animal could be extinct within decades.
After the summit, Kenya will set fire to nearly its entire confiscated stock of ivory, 105 tonnes, equivalent to the tusks of more than 6,700 elephants.
The ivory has been piled into a dozen giant pyres, which will be lit by dignitaries at the summit.
The mass burning on April 30 will be seven times the size of any stockpile destruction so far, and represents about 5% of global ivory stores.
Some 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn will also be burned.
The street value of the ivory destroyed is estimated at more than $100 million, and the rhino horn at $80 million.
Kitili Mbathi, director general of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), said: “We don’t believe there is any intrinsic value in ivory, and therefore we’re going to burn all our stockpiles and demonstrate to the world that ivory is only valuable on elephants.”
Africa is home to between 450,000 to 500,000 elephants, but more than 30,000 are killed every year for their tusks.
The world’s oldest stone tools were unearthed from the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, scientists say.
The tools date to 3.3 million years ago.
They are 700,000 years older than any tools found before, even pre-dating the earliest humans in the Homo genus.
The find, reported in Nature, suggests that more ancient species, such as Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops, may have been more sophisticated than was thought.
“They are significantly earlier than anything that has been found previously,” said Dr. Nick Taylor, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
“It’s really quite astonishing to think what separates the previous oldest site and this site is 700,000 years of time. It’s monumental.”
The first tools from the site, which is called Lomekwi 3, were discovered in 2011. They were spotted after researchers took a wrong turn as they walked through the hot, dry Kenyan landscape.
By the end of 2012, a total of 149 tools had been found, and another field trip in 2014 has unearthed more still.
They include sharp flakes of stone, sheared off from larger rocks, which were most likely used for cutting.
Hammers and anvils were also excavated, some of which were huge in size.
Dating of the volcanic ash and minerals around the tools suggests that they are 3.3 million years old.
Until this discovery, the oldest examples of this technology were the Oldowan tools from Tanzania, which date to about 2.6 million years ago.
The researchers say the 700,000-year time difference reveals how manufacturing methods and use changed over time, growing more advanced.
The scientists do not know who made the tools discovered in Kenya.
Until now, some thought that Homo habilis – known as “handy man” – was the earliest of our ancestors in the Homo genus to use tools.
But with Homo fossils dating back to only 2.4-2.3 million years ago, it now seems unlikely that this was the first toolmaker.
Other finds, such as animal bones found in Ethiopia with cut marks that date to 3.39 million years ago, also suggest tool use began before Homo habilis.
Scientists now believe the 3.3-million-year-old implements were crafted by another, more primitive species.
Dr. Nick Taylor said: “There are a number of possible candidates at present.
“There was a hominin called Kenyanthropus platyops, which has been found very close to where the Lomekwi 3 tools are being excavated. And that hominin was around at the time the tools were being made.
“More widely in the East African region there is another hominin, Australopithecus afarensis, which is famously known from the fossil Lucy, which is another candidate.”
Neither of these species was assumed to be particularly intelligent – they had both human and ape-like features, with relatively small brains.
However the tools suggest they may have been smarter than assumed.
Former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea went to a No Ceilings Conversation held at the Farasi Lane School in Mitini, Nairobi, Kenya on Friday, May 1st.
The Farasi Lane School is part of a CGI Commitment to Action, CHARGE – Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education.
Photo Clinton Foundation
CHARGE is a collaboration of more than 30 companies, civil society organizations, multilaterals and governments to improve learning and leadership opportunities for young women and girls.
After touring the school with the principal and seeing a lesson by a teacher, the former president and his daughter visited the school’s garden with two students and heard about the different kinds of plants, herbs, and fruits that they grow.
Earlier this week, Chelsea Clinton and her former president father landed in Tanzania, where they began their nine-day African tour, which will also take them to Liberia and Morocco after Kenya.
Kenyan fighter jets have targeted al-Shabab camps in neighboring Somalia in response to Garissa University attack.
The warplanes had bombed two camps in Gondodowe and Ismail, both in the Gedo region, used by al-Shabab to cross into Kenya, military sources say.
This is Kenya’s first response to an al-Shabab assault which left 148 people dead at Garissa University last week.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had vowed to respond to the attack “in the severest way possible”.
Al-Shabab said the assault in Garissa, which is 120 miles from the Somali border, was revenge for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to fight alongside African Union peacekeepers against the group.
The Islamist group, which at one point controlled most of Somalia, has lost swaths of territory in recent years but diplomats have repeatedly warned this has not diminished its ability to stage guerrilla-style attacks at home and abroad.
Charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta have been withdrawn by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
Uhuru Kenyatta had been indicted in connection with post-election ethnic violence in 2007-2008, in which 1,200 people died.
The president, who had denied the charges, said he felt “vindicated”.
The prosecutor’s office said the Kenyan government had refused to hand over evidence vital to the case.
Uhuru Kenyatta said he was “excited” and “relieved” at the dropping of charges.
“My conscience is absolutely clear,” he said, adding that his case had been “rushed there without proper investigation”.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said her government would try to have two other similar cases thrown out including one involving Deputy President William Ruto.
“As they say, one case down, two more to go,” Uhuru Kenyatta said on Twitter.
On December 3, the ICC had given prosecutors a week to decide whether to pursue their case against Uhuru Kenyatta or withdraw charges.
Further delays in the case would be “contrary to the interests of justice”, it had said.
On December 5, prosecutors said the evidence had “not improved to such an extent that Uhuru Kenyatta’s alleged criminal responsibility can be proven beyond reasonable doubt”.
Many observers had seen the case against Uhuru Kenyatta as the biggest test in the court’s history.
He was the first head of state to appear before the court, after he was charged in 2012.
The prosecution repeatedly asked for more time to build its case, saying witnesses had been bribed and intimidated, and the Kenyan government had refused to hand over documents vital to the case.
Human Rights Watch had accused the Kenyan government of acting as a roadblock and “impairing the search for truth”.
Uhuru Kenyatta denied inciting ethnic violence following the disputed 2007 elections in order to secure victory for then-President Mwai Kibaki.
He has repeatedly accused the ICC of pursuing a political prosecution.
On December 5, Uhuru Kenyatta again criticized the legal process, saying: “The prosecutor opted to selectively pursue cases in a blatantly biased manner that served vested interests and undermined justice.
“As a result, the court has had to pay a steep reputational price, which it will continue to face unless a serious and systemic rethinking of the international justice framework is undertaken.”
Uhuru Kenyatta won Kenya’s presidential elections in 2013, with the backing of Mwai Kibaki.
Al-Shabab militants have confirmed that they have attacked a bus in northern Kenya, killing 28 people.
The bus was travelling to Nairobi when it was stopped in Mandera county, not far from the Somali border.
The Somali gunmen separated out non-Muslims by asking passengers to read from the Koran, officials and witnesses said. Those who failed were then shot in the head.
Al-Shabab has carried out a series of attacks in Kenya since 2011.
A statement on a website linked to the Islamist group carried a statement saying the attack was carried out in retaliation for security raids on mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa earlier this week.
Kenyan interior ministry said on its Twitter feed that a camp belonging to the attackers had been destroyed by Kenyan military helicopters and jets, with “many killed”.
More than 60 passengers were on the bus when it was attacked, before dawn on November 22, about 19 miles from Mandera town.
The driver tried to accelerate away, but the vehicle became stuck in mud caused by recent heavy rains.
About 10 heavily armed men talking Somali ordered the passengers off the bus.
Kenya’s Red Cross said emergency workers were trying to retrieve bodies from the scene.
Security agencies were “in pursuit of the criminal gang” that carried out the attack, the interior ministry said. It described the assailants as “bandits”.
A local official quoted by Kenyan media said the government had failed to answer their pleas for extra security.
The attack comes after a week of heightened tension in Mombasa, which has suffered a series of al-Shabab attacks.
Security forces raided mosques in the city, saying they were being used to store weapons. The raids triggered apparent revenge attacks by Muslim youths.
Kenya has experience a series of al-Shabab attacks since it sent troops to Somalia three years ago to help fight the militant group.
Mandera, a remote area in Kenya’s north-east that shares a long and porous border with Somalia, has been one of the regions worst-affected by the violence.
On the Somali side of the border, al-Shabab is said to have a base that was recently bombed by Kenyan warplanes. It was not immediately clear whether this was the same base targeted by Kenya following Saturday’s attack.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed during a speech in front of the parliament that he will be appearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on October 8.
Uhuru Kenyatta told parliament that his deputy, William Ruto, would be in charge during his absence.
The president faces charges of organizing ethnic massacres that killed 1,200 people after the 2007 elections – something he denies.
The October 8 hearing is due to set a date for his trial to begin.
The ICC had summoned Uhuru Kenyatta to appear to explain allegations that evidence against him had been withheld.
In September, the court postponed the trial after prosecutors said the Kenyan government had failed to deliver key documents. Witnesses for the prosecution have withdrawn from the case.
Dozens of Kenyan lawmakers are expected to travel to The Hague to back Uhuru Kenyatta at the status hearing.
Uhuru Kenyatta said he would be going to The Hague in a personal capacity – not as president – so as not to compromise the sovereignty of Kenya’s 40 million people.
“To protect the sovereignty of the Kenyan republic, I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of evoking article 1473 of the constitution and I will shortly issue the legal notice necessary to appoint honourable William Ruto, the deputy president, as acting president while I attend the status conference at The Hague in the Netherlands,” he said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed during a speech in front of the parliament that he will be appearing at the ICC in The Hague on October 8
Uhuru Kenyatta again stressed his innocence: “I wish to reiterate here for all that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been leveled against me.
“After all this, the prosecutor of the ICC has since last December and as recently as last month, admitted to the judges that the available evidence is insufficient to prove alleged criminal responsibility beyond reasonable doubt.”
There had been growing doubts as to whether Uhuru Kenyatta would become the first sitting president to attend the court. He had already been to the ICC before becoming president in 2013.
Uhuru Kenyatta was a close ally of President Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the winner of the 2007 election. Mwai Kibaki’s rival, Raila Odinga, claimed the poll was marred by fraud.
The dispute took on an ethnic dimension, pitting members of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Uhuru Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki against other communities. Uhuru Kenyatta is accused of organising an ethnic Kikuyu gang, the Mungiki sect, to attack rival groups.
Uhuru Kenyatta faces five charges relating to the ethnic massacres – the worst violence in Kenya since independence in 1963. Tens of thousands of people were displaced and Kenya’s reputation for stability was tarnished.
Vice-President WSilliam Ruto also faces charges at The Hague, but he was on Raila Odinga’s side during the violence. He also denies the charges.
Two explosions have killed three people and wounded several others in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, police say.
In the deadliest attack, a grenade was reportedly thrown in a bus that had just arrived from Nairobi.
The other blast happened at a bar near a hotel in the Nyali beach area. There are no reports of casualties there.
Kenya has been hit by a spate of attacks blamed by the government on Somali Islamist militants.
Kenya has been hit by a spate of attacks blamed by the government on Somali Islamist militants (photo EMPICS)
The al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab has carried out several attacks in Kenya since 2011, when Kenya sent troops into Somalia to battle it.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for Saturday’s blasts.
The first blast is believed to have occurred after a grenade was thrown in a Nairobi-Mombasa bus that had just arrived in the busy Mwembe Tayari transport terminal, killing three people and wounding at least four others.
The second explosion took place at a beach bar near the Nayali Reef Hotel, after a device was left in a plastic bag in the washroom.
It is thought that a third attack was planned for a nearby cinema complex but was unsuccessful.
All three incidents happened within minutes of each other.
Tensions have been rising in Mombasa in recent months, with authorities accusing Islamists of radicalizing local youths.
Al-Shabab was blamed for an attack on a church in Mombasa in March that killed six people.
Shortly afterwards, a radical Muslim cleric alleged to have acted as a recruiter for al-Shabab was shot dead near Mombasa, prompting riots in the city.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into law a bill legalizing polygamy in Kenya.
The new bill brings civil law, where a man was only allowed one wife, into line with customary law, where some cultures allow multiple partners.
Controversy surrounded an amendment to the bill, supported by many male lawmakers, allowing men to take more wives without consulting existing spouses.
Traditionally, first wives are supposed to give prior approval.
Last month, female lawmakers walked out of parliament in disgust after their male counterparts voted through the amendment.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into law a bill legalizing polygamy in Kenya
They argued that a decision to take on another wife would affect the whole family, including the financial position of other spouses.
The bill was also opposed by Christian leaders who urged the president not to sign it into law, saying it undermined Christian principles of marriage and family.
“The tone of that bill, if it becomes law, would be demeaning to women since it does not respect the principle of equality of spouses in the institution of marriage,” Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), was quoted by Kenya’s Standard newspaper as saying.
The marriage legislation has been under discussion for several years and some initial proposals were scrapped at committee stages.
It has abolished the practice of unofficial traditional marriages which were never registered and could be ended without any legal divorce proceedings.
But plans to ban the payment of bride prices were dropped – although a person must be 18 to marry and this now applies to all cultures.
Lawmakers did reject the committee amendment which said a woman should only be entitled to 30% of matrimonial property after death or divorce.
The law now allows for equal property and inheritance rights – previously a woman had to prove her contribution to the couple’s wealth.
It also stipulates that a wife is entitled to an equal share of whatever the couple acquired during their marriage but in the case of multiple partners it is going to be difficult to determine what each spouse is entitled to if one of them divorces or their husband dies.
There had also been a proposal to recognize co-habiting couples, known in Kenya as “come-we-stay” relationships, after six months, but this too was dropped.
It would have allowed a woman to seek maintenance for herself and any children of the union, had the man left.
Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow has been identified as the Norwegian suspect in Kenya’s Westgate shopping centre attack, the BBC revealed.
Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, 23, is a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin and he is suspected of helping to plan and carry out the attack.
At least 67 people died in the attack in Nairobi, which the al-Qaeda linked group al-Shabab says it carried out.
Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow has been identified as the Norwegian suspect in Kenya’s Westgate shopping centre attack
Last week Norway’s intelligence agency, the PST, said it had sent officers to Kenya to verify reports that a Norwegian citizen had been involved in the assault on the shopping centre, which began on Saturday September 21 and lasted four days.
It is unclear how many militants were involved. Police had initially estimated that there were 10-15 attackers inside the complex, but the CCTV footage which has so far been released by the Kenyan authorities shows just four men.
Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow is believed to be one of those four.
Forensic investigators are still combing through the rubble of Westgate – no bodies have yet been identified and it is not known whether the attackers are alive or dead.
Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow was born in Somalia, but he and his family moved to Norway as refugees in 1999.
A deferral of The Hague trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta – due to start in November – has been demanded at the African Union summit in Ethiopia.
The AU also agreed a resolution stating no sitting African head of state should appear before an international court.
With both Kenyan and Sudanese presidents facing ICC cases, African leaders have long complained that the court unfairly targets them.
The AU had discussed withdrawing from the ICC, but failed to get support.
Senior figures including Kofi Annan have criticized plans to quit the ICC.
The AU leaders, meeting in Addis Ababa, agreed to back immunity for any sitting African head of state.
They also asked Kenya to write to the UN Security Council seeking a deferral in the International Criminal Court (ICC) case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges of crimes against humanity.
Both he and his deputy, William Ruto, deny charges of organizing violence after the 2007 election.
While William Ruto went on trial in September, President Kenyatta has repeatedly requested his trial – due next month – be postponed.
African states want the ICC to withdraw the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
Addressing the summit, Uhuru Kenyatta accused the court of bias and “race-hunting”, AFP reports.
“The ICC has been reduced into a painfully farcical pantomime, a travesty that adds insult to the injury of victims. It stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers.”
Ethiopian PM and AU chairman Hailemariam Dessalegn said the summit was not a crusade against the ICC but a call for the court to address Africa’s concerns seriously.
He said the ICC’s cases against the Sudanese and Kenyan presidents could hamper peace and reconciliation efforts in their countries.
“The unfair treatment that we have been subjected to by the ICC is completely unacceptable,” he said.
The ICC issued a warrant in 2009 for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir over alleged war crimes in the Darfur region, but he has not yet been arrested.
The ICC relies on the authorities of national governments to hand over suspects, but Mr Bashir has avoided arrest despite travelling to countries that have signed up to the ICC statute.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is the current chairman of the AU’s Executive Council, said the ICC had failed to respond to the African Union’s previous complaints.
“What the summit decided is that President Kenyatta should not appear until the request we have made is actually answered,” he said.
Thirty-four of the AU’s 54 members have signed up to the ICC.
Kenya’s parliament has already passed a motion for the country to withdraw.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that withdrawing from the court would be a “badge of shame”.
Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also voiced his support for the ICC.
“Those leaders seeking to skirt the court are effectively looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress their own people without consequence,” he wrote in an article carried by several newspapers.
“They simply vilify the institution as racist and unjust, as Hermann Goering and his fellow Nazi defendants vilified the Nuremberg tribunals following World War II.”
All eight of the cases currently open at the ICC are in Africa but it is also investigating possible cases elsewhere.
Kenyan security officials are to be questioned by MPs about alleged intelligence failings over the Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre attack.
The head of the parliament’s defense committee says “people need to know the exact lapses in the security system”.
There are reports the National Intelligence Service (NIS) issued warnings a year ago.
Some 67 people were killed and many injured after al-Shabab militants stormed the Westgate centre in the capital Nairobi on September 21.
Five militants were killed by the security forces during the four-day siege and 10 people have since been arrested, the authorities say.
Al-Shabab, a Somali Islamist group, said the attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.
Kenyan security officials are to be questioned by MPs about alleged intelligence failings over the Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre attack
According to a BBC report, the militants hired a shop in Nairobi mall in the weeks leading up to the siege.
Security officials – including the head of the (NIS), Michael Gichangi – are set to appear before the parliamentary defense committee later on Monday.
Kenyan newspapers have reported that the NIS warned a year ago of the presence of suspected al-Shabab militants in the capital and that they were planning suicide attacks, including on the Westgate shopping centre.
Briefings were given to the ministers “informing them of increasing threat of terrorism and of plans to launch simultaneous attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa around September 13 and 20, 2013”, Kenya’s Daily Nation had quoted counter-terrorism reports as saying.
A dossier from the NIS – amounting to more than 8,000 pages according to Kenya’s Standard newspaper – also suggests the Israelis issued warnings that buildings owned by its citizens could be attacked between 4 and 28 September.
Westgate is partly Israeli-owned.
The Daily Nation has reported that Kenyan intelligence had established that al-Shabab leaders had begun singling out Westgate and the Holy Family Basilica for attack early this year.
Government figures said to have received the intelligence briefings include Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku, Treasury Minister Julius Rotich, Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohammed, Defence Minister Raychelle Omamo and Kenya Defence Forces chief Julius Karangi.
The Kenyan stand-off at Westgate shopping centre enters fourth day with security forces combing the Nairobi mall attacked by suspected al-Shabab militants.
An explosion and gunfire were heard at the Westgate complex on Tuesday morning, but later a senior police source said the operation was “over”.
At least 65 people have been killed, including three soldiers.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s foreign minister said “two or three” Americans and a British woman were among the attackers.
In an interview with the US TV programme PBS Newshour, Amina Mohamed said the Americans were 18 or 19 years old, of Somali or Arab origin, and lived “in Minnesota and one other place”.
Amina Mohamed said the Briton was a woman who had “done this many times before”.
She appeared to contradict earlier comments from Kenya’s interior minister, who suggested that all the attackers were men – though some may have been dressed as women.
Amina Mohamed’s remarks have fuelled media speculation about the possible involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the men who carried out attacks on London’s transport system on July 7th, 2005.
The Somali Islamist al-Shabab movement said it had carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan military operations in Somalia.
Earlier, a Kenyan officer at the scene said he believed there could be two or three attackers left inside the building.
The Kenyan stand-off at Westgate shopping centre enters fourth day with security forces combing the Nairobi mall attacked by suspected al-Shabab militants
The interior ministry said security officials were in “mop-up operations” and that “we’re very near the end”, while the police said they were cleaning up explosives that had been planted in the area.
The ministry said it believed all hostages had been released – though messages on an al-Shabab Twitter feed said hostages were still being held and militants were “holding their ground”.
Official sources said that six of the attackers have been killed – three on Monday and three since midnight.
Officials said earlier that 10 people had been arrested in connection with the attack.
Between 12 and 15 militants stormed the Westgate centre on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing on shoppers and staff.
At least 18 foreigners are among the dead, including six Britons, as well as citizens from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.
The interior ministry said on Tuesday that three soldiers had succumbed to their injuries, and eight were still being treated.
“We’ve lost three heroes,” the ministry said on its Twitter account.
Nearly 200 people were wounded, including five Americans.
The Kenyan Red Cross said 51 people remained unaccounted for.
President Barack Obama called the attack a “terrible outrage” and said the US was providing all the co-operation it could to Kenya.
Thousands of Kenyans have been responding to appeals for blood donations.
Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia.
There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia as part of an African Union force supporting Somali government forces.
Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.
Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.
UN special representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay called on Tuesday for a fresh surge in African troops to Somalia to counter an estimated 5,000 al-Shabab fighters, Reuters news agency reported.
Kenyan Special Forces were today locked in a fight to the death with Islamic terrorists who have been barricaded inside Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Centre with up to 40 hostages since Saturday.
Witnesses described hearing four large explosions at the Westgate Shopping Centre followed by the sight of thick plumes of smoke and the sounds of fierce gunfire after the military tried to break the three day siege by gaining access from the roof.
It is feared that some of the gunmen, who are from al-Qaeda affiliated group al- Shabaab, may have blown themselves up, though a Kenyan government minister said that militants had set fire to some mattresses in a supermarket as a decoy.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said that three of the terrorists have now been killed and that most hostages were now free.
“We think the operation will come to an end soon,” he said.
“We are in control of all the floors, the terrorists are running and hiding in some stores… there is no room for escape.”
Witnesses described hearing four large explosions at the Westgate Shopping Centre followed by the sight of thick plumes of smoke
The Red Cross has put the death toll at 62 and says 63 are still missing. At least 175 were injured, including children.
The Kenyan interior ministry said “almost all” the hostages have been evacuated from the mall hours after it was rocked by a series of blasts.
In a Twitter message it added “some individuals” have been arrested at Nairobi airport.
In a series of updates, it said 16 Kenyan soldiers had been injured, adding that the focus of the operation is now clearing the building.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said security forces now have control over all four storeys of the shopping mall and are confident there is no escape route for the surviving terrorists.
He said: “We are doing anything reasonably possible, cautiously though, to bring this process to an end.
“The terrorists could be running and hiding in some stores, but all floors now are under our control.”
As Kenyan soldiers and more armored personnel carriers descended on the mall, a spokesman for terror group al-Shabaab Ali Mohamud Rage said in a statement posted on an Islamist website that those held inside will “bear the brunt of any force” used by soldiers against the militants.
The statement read: “We authorize the mujahedeen inside the building to take actions against the prisoners as much as they are pressed.
“We are telling Christians advancing onto the mujahedeen to have mercy for their prisoners who will bear the brunt of any force directed against the mujahedeen.”
Meanwhile, a Twitter account claiming to represent al-Shabaab yesterday claimed that terrorists from seven nations are involved in the attack, including the U.S., Britain and Canada.
The HSM Press Office account, which has been suspended twice, claimed the group were Ahmed Nasir Shirdoon, 24, from London, UK; Gen Mustafe Noorduiin, 27, from Kansas City, U.S., Abdifatah Osman Keenadiid, 24, from Minneapolis, U.S., and Ahmed Mohamad Isse, 22, from Saint Paul, U.S; Ismael Guled, 23, from Finland; Abdirizak Mouled, 24, from Ontario, Canada; and Zaki Jama Caraale, 20, and Sayid Nuh, 25, both from Somalia.