Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that the four-day siege involving suspected Islamist militants at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre is over.
Five attackers were shot dead by troops and 11 suspects were in custody, he said in a TV address to the nation.
Kenya has “shamed and defeated our attackers” but the “losses are immense”, Uhuru Kenyatta said, confirming that 61 civilians and six soldiers had died.
Three days of national mourning have been declared, starting on Wednesday.
Uhuru Kenyatta said that several bodies – including those of “terrorists” – were thought to be trapped under rubble after three floors of the building collapsed following a blaze on Monday.
Some 175 people were injured in the attack; 62 people remain in hospital and many others are being treated for shock and are undergoing counseling.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that the four-day siege involving suspected Islamist militants at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre is over
“I promise that we shall have a full accountability for the mindless destruction, deaths, pain, loss and suffering we have all undergone as a national family.
“These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are,” he said.
At least 18 foreigners are among the dead, citizens from France, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.
The militants stormed the Westgate centre on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing on shoppers and staff.
Somali Islamist group al-Shabab said it had carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan army operations in Somalia.
Uhuru Kenyatta said he could not confirm reports that a British national and two or three US citizens were involved in the attacks, but he said forensic experts were carrying out tests to ascertain their nationalities.
In an interview with the US TV programme PBS Newshour, Kenya’s Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said the Americans were 18 or 19 years old, of Somali or Arab origin.
Her 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.
However, a Twitter post from al-Shabab on Tuesday evening dismissed claims that women were involved in the attack. The group said it “categorically” denied involvement of any woman”.
A dead white woman has been identified among Islamic terrorists killed by soldiers as they stormed Nairobi’s Westgate mall where 62 shoppers were shot dead this weekend, Kenyan officials said.
The claim, made by three sources to news agency Reuters, will fuel speculation that the dead woman is Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay, who is wanted by Kenyan police on a string of terror charges. Police will also investigate the possibility that she is a hostage dressed in one of the terrorist’s clothes.
Asked if it was Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the “White Widow”, an intelligence officer said: “We don’t know.”
Moments after the news broke, al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliated terror group behind the massacre at Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Centre, used their Twitter feed to claim that Samantha Lewthwaite was safe.
There were conflicting reports about the identity of the attackers. Al-Shabaab claimed on Twitter last night that the group was being led by Samantha Lewthwaite, who was married to Jermaine Lindsay, one of the 7/7 suicide bombers.
Known as the White Widow, Samantha Lewthwaite is wanted by Kenyan police over links to a suspected terrorist cell planning bomb attacks.
Known as the White Widow, Samantha Lewthwaite is wanted by Kenyan police over links to a suspected terrorist cell planning bomb attacks
A link between Samantha Lewthwaite and the Westgate attack was made after soldiers claimed they had seen a white woman in a veil shouting orders to gunman in Arabic.
Samantha Lewthwaite converted to Islam as a young woman and married Jermaine Lindsay who went on to be a 7/7 London suicide bomber. She has become a key figure in the terror group behind this weekend’s attack.
She has even been involved in training a group of all-female suicide attackers at camps in lawless neighboring the 29-year-old, who grew up as a normal teenager in Aylesbury before meeting Jermaine Lindsay, a British Muslim, in an online chat room when she was 17. The pair married three years later.
When Jermaine Lindsay was named as one of four suicide bombers who blew up Tube trains and a bus in 2005, killing 52 people, Samantha Lewthwaite initially condemned her late husband’s attack and denied any knowledge of his plan. This was a lie.
More than eight years later, Samantha Lewthwaite is one of al-Qaeda’s main recruiters in East Africa and is an official spokesperson for al-Shabaab (The People), the terrorist group behind the horror in Nairobi.
Samantha Lewthwaite, who is the world’s most wanted woman, has been on the run in East Africa after police foiled a Christmas bomb plot against Western tourists in the coastal resort of Mombasa in 2011.
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.