GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: TERROR AT NAIROBI MALL
UPDATE: 9/24/13 3:00 PM ET
This live blog is now closed.
UPDATE: 9/24/13 2:00 PM ET
Al Shabaab, on the offensive
Tristan McConnell, who is in Nairobi, reported on Al Shabaab's resurgence:
The brazen assault — which is the worst terrorist incident in Kenya since the 1998 US embassy bombing — suggests Al Shabaab is no longer on the back foot, and raised questions about Kenya’s ability to defend itself against Islamist militants.
Kenya contributes roughly 4,000 troops to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, and Al Shabaab spokesmen have referenced their presence in Somalia as the reason for the attack.
“The attack is a clear statement of intent [to carry out an international attack] and capacity,” said Cedric Barnes, Nairobi-based Horn of Africa director at the International Crisis Group think tank in Brussels.
Somalia’s government, which struggles to control the capital Mogadishu, insists the group is defeated following a push from African Union peacekeepers, including Kenyan troops, to rout Al Shabaab from certain strongholds.
At various times since 2006, the group has ruled over large swathes of the country.
Read the full report: With fresh Kenya attack, is Somalia's Al Qaeda affiliate stronger than ever?
UPDATE: 9/24/13 1:10 PM ET
Kenyan president declares three days of mourning
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said security forces had defeated "terrorists" after a four day siege in Nairobi, according to the Associated Press.
In a television address, Kenyatta said, "we have shamed and defeated our attackers."
As for casualties, Kenyatta said the four-day attack on the Westgate mall left 72 dead, including 61 civilians, six security forces and five "terrorists."
"Fellow Kenyans, we have been badly hurt and feel great pain and loss, but we have been brave, united and strong. Kenya has stared down great evil and triumphed," he said.
He said 11 were in custody.
UPDATE: 9/24/13 11:10 AM ET
Kenyan president to address nation
UPDATE: 9/24/13 8:30 AM ET
Approaching 'the very end'
Kenyan security forces have been saying for the past few hours that they have almost completed the operation to secure the Westgate mall.
Meanwhile city morgues have been warned to prepare for a large influx of bodies, an official told the Associated Press.
The AP posted a clip of explosions heard on Tuesday morning near the mall:
UPDATE: 9/24/13 4:10 AM ET
Al Shabaab claims it still has hostages
The Al Shabaab Islamist group claims, via its new and supposedly verified Twitter account, to be holding hostages alive inside the Westgate mall. There's no way of confirming that information.
Of course, it could be a cynical attempt to prevent Kenyan security forces going in with all guns blazing.
The Kenya Defense Forces tweeted:
UPDATE: 9/24/13 3:40 AM ET
Latest toll: 62 dead, 63 missing
Here's a round-up of the latest figures, as given on the verified Twitter accounts of the Kenyan government, defense forces and the Red Cross:
— Dead: 62
— Missing: 63
— Wounded: more than 170, with 65 in hospital
— Rescued: over 200
— Security forces injured: 11
— Attackers killed: 3
UPDATE: 9/24/13 3:00 AM ET
Americans, Brit among attackers: Kenyan minister
Kenya's foreign minister has repeated reports that Westerners were among the hostage takers.
In an interview in New York with PBS Newshour, Amina Mohamed said that "from the information that we have," two or three American men and one British woman took part in the attack.
The Briton has "done this many times before," Mohamed said. The Americans are thought to be between 18 and 19 years old and of Somali or Arab origin, she said. At least one is thought to have lived in Minnesota.
It is not clear whether Mohamed's statements were based on a list published on Twitter that claimed to name the attackers. That list has since been disowned by Somalia's Al Shabaab group, which has claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack, and the Twitter account it was posted on has been blocked.
Other Kenyan officials have said, however, that all the attackers were male, indicating that information on the suspects remains unconfirmed and contradictory at this stage.
Mohamed said that Kenyan, US and UK intelligence services were investigating. The US State Department is aware of the reports but has "no definitive evidence of the nationalities or the identities" of the attackers, a spokeswoman said Monday, according to the AP. British officials have not yet commented.
Watch her interview here:
UPDATE: 9/24/13 2:15 AM ET
Kenyan forces control mall, but operation 'not yet over'
Security forces have taken control of all stories of the Westgate mall, according to the inspector general of Kenya's police force, David Kimaiyo.
Kenyan troops have now turned their focus to clearing the building. Authorities say that the area remains a "crime scene" and are warning the public to stay away.
It's not clear what has become of the attackers. The Kenya Defense Forces said that three had been killed "so far" and others injured, while those remaining had little chance of escape.
Reporters at the scene say that gunfire continues, indicating that at least some hostage takers are alive and still dangerous.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 5:20 PM ET
Government "believes" all hostages have been released
However, correspondents on the ground from BBC and AP say the security operation is still ongoing.
The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse said, "We still don't have a clear picture of what's going on inside the building."
UPDATE: 9/23/13 5:10 PM ET
While the Kenyan interior ministry and Kenyan police have tweeted that the situation is over, the Associated Press' Nairobi-based correspondent tweeted:
"We think that everyone, the hostages, have been evacuated but we don't want to take any chances," government spokesman Manoah Esipisu said, as quoted by the BBC. "The special forces are doing their job and yes, I think we are near the end."
The Kenyan police tweeted:
UPDATE: 9/23/13 4:58 PM ET
Kenyan government is "in control"
The Kenyan interior ministry's Twitter account just said simply:
UPDATE: 9/23/13 4:45 PM ET
Reports of siege "nearing end"
An unknown number of hostages are still believed to be in the Westgate mall, but AFP tweeted this update (which GlobalPost cannot independently verify at this time):
And Al Jazeera America reported this (which is also not independently confirmed):
UPDATE: 9/23/13 4:00 PM ET
"The attack started with a huge bang"
Tristan McConnell filed a report from the scene in Nairobi, including this eye witness account:
Architect Naeem Bivji, 34, was sitting on the roadside terrace at the Art Caffe restaurant with his wife and 7-month-old baby when the assault began around lunchtime Saturday.
“The attack started with a huge bang,” he said. “We could feel the blast wave and dived to the ground. A man a couple of tables away, a big guy, a bit older and a little slow to move was shot in the chest right in front of us.”
Hiding beneath the restaurant tables, the terrified customers tried to make sense of what was happening around them, Bivji said.
“People were saying it might be a drive-by or a robbery but we thought it was something more,” he said. “We waited on the ground for a few seconds then, as the shooting got louder inside the building, we crawled into the corner where there was a little stairwell and a fire escape.”
For the next 40 minutes, Bivji and his wife and young child huddled together, waiting for a chance to dash for safety.
Then, during a lull in the shooting, Bivji and his wife, clutching their infant daughter, clambered off the terrace and escaped.
Read the full report: "Nairobi attack survivors hid for hours, waiting to die"
UPDATE: 9/23/13 3:20 PM ET
As many as six Britons killed
British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted:
UPDATE: 9/23/13 2:45 PM ET
Obama calls attack a "terrible outrage"
President Obama called the attack on the Westgate mall a "terrible outrage," while meeting Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck in New York Monday.
"We stand with them against this terrible outrage that occurred," he said, adding that the United States was cooperating with Kenya on the matter.
Goodluck said, "I feel the pain of President Kenyatta ... terror anywhere is terror on all of us," according to Reuters.
Obama also offered "whatever law enforcement support that is necessary" to his Kenyan counterpart, according to Agence France-Presse.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 2:40 PM ET
Witness: "We were let down by the police"
From Nairobi, Tristan McConnell reports:
Satpal Singh, a Kenyan of Indian descent, was enjoying a cup of coffee with friends at the Java Coffee House on the mall’s upper floor when the attack began.
“I heard explosions and then shooting,” he said.
Knowing that the mall was full of families and children, Singh began looking for ways to get people out. He bravely rushed downstairs, towards the shooting. On one floor, Singh found a police officer with an assault rifle hiding behind a pillar.
“To our dismay, the uniformed officers did not assist us,” he said. “Civilians risked their lives to help people but one officer we found was just crouching behind a pillar holding his gun.”
“He had a weapon and would not use it,” he said.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 2:10 PM ET
Ruto: "We will defeat them"
Kenyan Deputy President Ruto, given permission by the ICC to return to Kenya during this time of crisis, spoke about the Westgate attack, saying, "We have answered cowardice with solid courage."
The Interior Ministry tweeted his remarks:
UPDATE: 9/23/13 1:55 PM ET
Reactions to attack and condemnation of Al Shabaab
A joint statement from the European Council and European Commission sought to reaffirm their support of Kenya.
Joint message on Kenya attack
According to Reuters, the White House said the United States has been concerned about the terrorist group's efforts to recruit Americans but has no confirmation of any US citizens being involved in the attack.
A reporter for The Washington Post tweeted:
UPDATE: 9/23/13 1:25 PM ET
'Little Mogadishu' in Kenya
Nairobi-based Tristan McConnell reports:
Al Shabaab, or "The Youth" in Arabic, is known to have recruited foreign fighters from places like Afghanistan, Chechnya, Europe and the US.
But the majority of the group’s foreign recruits come from Kenya, analysts say, drawn from Muslim communities in Eastleigh, the capital’s Somali enclave, and along the coastal strip and arid northeast.
Residents of Eastleigh, which is nicknamed “Little Mogadishu,” told Reuters they fear a backlash following this latest attack.
There is no evidence that ethnic Somalis, or Somali migrants or refugees from Kenya, participated in the attack. But according to Cedric Barnes, Horn of Africa project director for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, the Somali community in Eastleigh, which has suffered decades of discrimination and neglect, “is a breeding ground for Al Shabaab.”
Barnes says the biggest source of recruitment for Al Shabaab comes from foreign intervention in Somalia.
Read the full report: "Al Qaeda-style militants draw Kenyan recruits"
UPDATE: 9/23/13 12:55 PM ET
A message of unity from the president
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said, via the Interior Ministry's Twitter account:
Coming from most leaders, a call for unity and calm would seem natural at a time like this.
However, Kenyatta himself has faced accusations from the International Criminal Court of financing death squads during the election violence that broke out in 2007. He has been accused of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and forcible transfer, according to The New York Times.
His deputy, William Ruto, was to face the ICC, but was given permission to return to Kenya for a week in the wake of the Westgate attack.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 12:00 PM ET
Amid the terror, the good Samaritans
A spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency in East Africa tweeted:
The Kenyan police called for responsible behavior:
UPDATE: 9/23/13 11:40 AM ET
More than 10 arrests connected to Westgate
The Kenyan Interior Ministry tweeted:
Mike Pflanz is a journalist based in Kenya:
UPDATE: 9/23/13 11:35 AM ET
The victims, remembered
Information has slowly been trickling in about some of those who lost in the attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi.
The number of Britons killed in the attack has risen to four since Sunday.
The Briton added to the death toll was an architect, Ross Langdon. His Dutch wife, Elif Yavuz, who was heavily pregnant, was also killed in the attack.
AFP reported: "The pair were expecting their first child in two weeks, and Adams said malaria specialist Yavuz, 33, had recently met Bill Clinton through her work with the Gates Foundation in Kenya."
Ruhila Adatia-Sood, another victim in the attack, was a Kenyan, married to a USAid employee in Nairobi. She was six months pregnant with the couple's first child, according to BBC News.
A Canadian diplomat, a Ghanian poet and a former deputy head of the UN's Kenyan branch of the children's fund were also among the dead.
BBC News has a comprehensive list of victims as their identities are released.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 11:20 AM ET
Updates from the defense forces
UPDATE: 9/23/13 11:05 AM ET
Defense Forces claim 3 terrorists killed
UPDATE: 9/23/13 10:55 AM ET
Support from Rwanda, US
Paul Kagame, Rwanda's president, has offered his Kenyan counterpart support:
US President Barack Obama also contacted Kenyatta on Sunday.
"President Obama called President Kenyatta of Kenya this morning to express condolences to the government and people of Kenya for the terrorist attack carried out by al-Shabaab yesterday on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi," said the White House in a statement. "President Obama reiterated US support for Kenya's efforts to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice."
So far, five Americans are thought to be among the injured, though no Americans were reported among the dead.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 10:45 AM ET
Al Shabaab's spokesman defends attack
Al Jazeera spoke with Al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, Sheikh Abulaziz Abu Muscab.
Asked why Al Shabaab attacked Nairobi, he responded:
"We have been late in attacking Nairobi. We did not attack before because they were expecting us to attack. Our aim is to attack our enemy when they least expect us to attack. This time they were not expecting us to attack. We choose when to attack, and best time to attack."
On the chosen location of the attack, the spokesman said:
"The place we attacked is Westgate shopping mall. It is a place where tourists from across the world come to shop, where diplomats gather. It is a place where Kenya's decision-makers go to relax and enjoy themselves. Westgate is a place where there are Jewish and American shops. So we have to attack them."
Read the full interview at Al Jazeera.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 10:40 AM ET
2 terrorists killed: Interior Ministry
The Kenyan Interior Ministry's Twitter account tweeted the following update:
The account has been tweeting messages of unity with the hashtag #WeAreOne
UPDATE: 9/23/13 10:20 AM ET
AFP journalist witnesses the chaos
Nairobi-based Nichole Sobecki, who works for Agence France-Presse, was able to gain access to the Westgate mall after the attack started.
"I've covered many conflicts before, including Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan -- so am used to seeing scenes of violence. But to find this taking place in a mall I know well, just minutes from my home, was completely surreal.
"Arriving at the scene, people were running from the mall, holding hands, many in tears. Closer in, those who'd been shot were being helped by other civilians, and cars were acting as ambulances, transporting the injured to nearby hospitals."
"Amidst these scenes of horror, I was also witness to moments of fellowship. Strangers helping each other away from danger. The bravery of members of the security forces and civilians. Crowds lining up to donate blood. In a country too often characterised by its divisions, that is the small glimpse I hope I take from one of Kenya's darkest days."
Read her full account.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 9:10 AM ET
Intense shooting reported
Within the past five minutes, what sound like almost constant gunshots could be heard in live footage from outside Westgate Mall. Journalists have reportedly been told to take cover.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 8:30 AM ET
Hostage takers 'multinational'
The attackers came from several different countries, according to Kenya's chief of defense forces.
"We have an idea who this people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," the AP quotes Gen. Julius Karangi as saying.
There have been reports that at least three of the hostage takers were US nationals, and others from Canada, the UK, Finland, Somalia and Kenya. They seem to be based on a list posted on an unverified Twitter account claiming to belong to Somali-based Islamist group Al Shabaab that purportedly identified the attackers. That account has since been blocked and the list disowned by Al Shabaab.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 7:45 AM ET
Almost all hostages evacuated: Interior minister
Almost all people trapped inside Westgate Mall have been freed, according to Kenya's interior minister, Joseph Ole Lenku, who has just given a press conference.
He says 62 deaths have been confirmed so far — lower than the figures that had been circulating until now (68 or 69). The Kenyan Red Cross has since given the same figure, saying that the confusion was due to some bodies being counted twice as they were moved between different morgues.
At least two attackers were killed and several wounded, Ole Lenku said. Ten Kenyan security forces were injured.
The minister said the smoke now pouring out of the complex is from a fire started by the attackers in an attempt to stop troops closing in.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 4:30 AM ET
UK to call emergency response meeting
Prime Minister David Cameron is to interrupt a visit to the Queen's Scottish residence to chair a meeting of the UK's emergency response committee, known as COBRA, to discuss the Nairobi attack.
At least three Britons are confirmed dead, and officials have warned that the figure is likely to rise as troops recover more bodies.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 4:20 AM ET
Kenya's deputy president excused from trial to help with crisis
The International Criminal Court has announced that it will adjourn the trial of Deputy President William Ruto in order to allow him to return to Kenya during the hostage crisis.
The ICC, which is trying Ruto in The Hague for his alleged role in 2007-08 post-election violence, says he will be granted a week's pause.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 4:05 AM ET
First moments of attack captured on video
The Associated Press has obtained amateur footage filmed inside Westgate Mall as the first shots rang out. The video captures some of the confusion as Saturday shoppers begin to realize they're in danger.
UPDATE: 9/23/13 3:00 AM ET
Reports of heavy gunfire
Witnesses at the scene reported hearing heavy gunfire and explosions early Monday morning, as Kenyan forces seek to end the hostage situation that is now entering its third day.
According to AFP correspondents outside Westgate Mall: "Sustained bursts of rapid gunfire broke out at dawn, and soldiers posted around the complex ducked for cover. This was followed by three big explosions and more sporadic weapons fire."
Between 10 and 15 attackers are thought to remain in the complex, as well as an unknown number of hostages and other people trapped. There are concerns that the attackers could use their captives as human shields as security forces close in.
Kenyan troops are receiving assistance from American, Israeli and other foreign forces, a security source told the BBC.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 5:08 PM ET
Kenyan forces report control over most of Westgate mall
In the process of wresting control of the besieged mall from armed attackers, four Kenya Defense Forces personnel were injured, the KDF said Sunday.
The KDF added, "All efforts are underway to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion."
UPDATE: 9/22/13 4:44 PM ET
Update: Al Shabaab denies naming alleged attackers
Al Shabaab has denied a connection to the Twitter account that published the names of 12 people said to be involved in the Westgate attack, according to reports.
Before it was suspended today, an unverified Twitter account appearing to represent Al Shabaab tweeted a list of 12 people whom it said are the Westgate attackers. The list includes several Americans, though all 12 individuals are of Somali origin.
The names, which GlobalPost has not independently verified, are posted here.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 3:23 PM ET
Death toll rises to 68
The Red Cross said the number of people confirmed killed now sits at 68. That count is in line with what a medical worker told GlobalPost earlier today, reporting seeing nine dead civilians pulled out of the Westgate mall.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 1:55 PM ET
Military operation underway; fresh explosion reported at mall
The Associated Press and other news outlets report a large explosion a little more than an hour ago at the Westgate mall, which has been held by armed gunmen for more than 24 hours now.
GlobalPost's interpretation of the explosion is that it was likely a grenade, and not as "huge" as the AP suggests.
A military operation is ongoing to recover civilians and put an end to the siege in the Kenyan capital. One soldier speaking to GlobalPost claimed that militants inside the mall were using a belt-fed PKM machine gun.
Some civilian casualties with gunshot wounds had been brought out of the mall today. A medical worker told GlobalPost that some of the rescued have been treated for dehydration and exhaustion as well as gunshot and shrapnel wounds.
A medical worker also reported seeing nine dead civilians pulled out of the building in the last hour or so. If confirmed, they would be deaths in addition to the 59 already counted.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 11:54 AM ET
Details scarce on what's happening inside Westgate
Kenyan authorities say they have rescued about 1,000 people from inside the Westgate mall since yesterday. But it's unclear how many civilians remain inside, and of them, how many have been taken as hostages.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said 10 to 15 armed attackers, both male and female, are still inside the mall.
Among the 59 victims confirmed dead in the attack were Kenyattas own relatives, a nephew and his fiancee. Foreign nationals from the US, UK, South Africa, South Korea, India, China, France, Ghana, Canada and The Netherlands have also been confimed dead.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 11:19 AM ET
Who are Al Shabaab?
Somalia’s Al Shabaab, the group that claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack, have become Africa’s most powerful, dangerous and far-reaching Al Qaeda affiliate.
Although it suffered a series of setbacks in 2012, it remains a powerful force with both regional and international reach.
In 2010, Al Shabaab proved it could strike outside Somalia by carrying out coordinated suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda. Those attacks killed more than 70 people, including an American. In 2011, a UN investigation found that Al Shabaab was developing strengthening ties to extremist groups in Kenya, and the US in 2012 warned of links to other Al Qaeda-inspired groups in West Africa and Yemen.
On Saturday, an account apparently affiliated with Al Shabaab posted proud claim to the Westgate attack via Twitter. The account has since been suspended, but Slate preserved several of the tweets.
Read more on terrorism in Africa in GlobalPost's in-depth series.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 10:50 AM ET
President Kenyatta's relatives killed in attack
In a statement Sunday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that a nephew and his fiancee were among the 59 killed at Westgate mall.
“I feel the pain of every life we have lost, and share your grief at our nation’s loss,” Kenyatta said.
Kenyatta said that 10 to 15 "armed terrorists" are still inside the mall, where hostages continue to be held.
"We have reports of women as well as male attackers. We cannot confirm details on this. Our security analysts are looking at that. Our multi-agency response unit has had to delicately balance the pressure to contain the criminals with the need to keep our people still held in the building safe," he said.
“They shall not get away with their despicable and beastly acts. ... We will punish the masterminds swiftly and indeed very painfully,” the president said.
Read text of Kenyatta's full statement here.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 10:20 AM ET
3 UK citizens killed
The UK government has confirmed three of its citizens were killed Saturday in the attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall.
"The number of British Nationals confirmed as killed is likely to rise as further information becomes available," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement.
UPDATE: 9/22/13 9:24 AM ET
Siege continues for second day
NAIROBI, Kenya — At least five gunmen wearing bullet-proof vests and armed with assault rifles and hand grenades attacked the popular Westgate shopping mall during lunchtime on Saturday, killing at least 59 people.
Nearly 24 hours after the attack began, gunmen remain inside the mall with an unknown number of hostages. The makeshift triage station about 500 yards from the mall was quiet on Sunday as the standoff continued inside. Occasional gunfire could be heard.
"We will not be cowed," former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters. "We know terrorism for what it is. That is an act of desperation."
Islamic militant group Al Shabaab on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack, saying on its official Twitter feed the attacks were retribution for military action by Kenya in Somalia.
"10 hours have passed and the Mujahideen are still strong inside #Westgate Mall and still holding their ground. All praise is due to Allah!," Al Shabaab said in a tweet late Saturday.
Several Americans were among the at least 175 people wounded. Two diplomats, one from Canada and one from Ghana, were among the dead. The Kenya Red Cross earlier reported that 30 people had been killed and 60 injured but those numbers dramatically increased later in the day.
It's the deadliest terror attack in Nairobi since 1998 bombings at US embassies there and in Tanzania killed more than 200 people.
"There are quite a number of people still being held hostage on the third floor and the basement area where the terrorists are still in charge," Odinga told reporters.
One man, Al Graziano, who escaped after hiding in a Mr Price clothing story for five hours, described how the assault started as he waited to meet friends for lunch on the outside terrace of the Art Caffe restaurant.
"There was a bang, an explosion, and I though it must be a car crash but then the shooting started," he said.
Customers dived to the floor and then ran for shelter in nearby shops.
"We were hiding in Mr Price, maybe 30 or 40 of us. It was unnerving: the entire ground floor of the mall was empty and we could just hear shooting, shooting every minute."
Olivia Murthi, who had been hiding in the same shop, said there were "a lot of gunshots and explosions."
One security source told GlobalPost that the attackers included one woman. Another said, "They knew what they were doing. They weren't spraying bullets around, these guys are good shooters."
Kenyan military units moved into the mall to look for the assailants who were believed to be in the main department store. During the afternoon the military and police presence grew, as did the crowds of onlookers and worried relatives. At one point police used tear gas to disperse the crowds outside the mall.
Helicopters circled overhead all afternoon, and at nightfall the operation was ongoing.
Nairobi's malls are popular with the country's middle classes and foreign residents and are especially crowded with families on weekends. Among the people who escaped during the course of Saturday afternoon were distraught parents and traumatized children who were hustled out by emergency workers and security personnel.
Scores of people with gunshot wounds were also carried out and loaded into waiting ambulances.