Kenya standoff: At least 59 dead, Uhuru Kenyatta says
At least 59 people were killed and 175 injured in Saturday’s attack on a Nairobi shopping centre, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
More than 1,000 people were brought out of the Westgate shopping centre and the rescue operation continues, Mr Kenyatta said at a news conference on Sunday. Between 10 and 15 attackers – thought to be militants from the Somali al-Shabab movement – are still inside. Some civilians are still trapped, either as hostages or in hiding. At 17:00 GMT on Sunday, the Kenyan Red Cross said one hostage had recently been rescued, and the search and rescue operation was ongoing. The BBC’s Anne Soy, who is about 300m from the shopping centre, says increased gunfire has rung out over the past hour.
She says ambulances have been leaving the scene, as has a pick-up truck covered with blankets, suggesting that it may be carrying bodies.
“The criminals are now located in one place within the building,” Mr Kenyatta said. “With the professionals on site, we have as good a chance to neutralise the terrorists as we could hope for.” He thanked those who had helped with rescue and relief efforts, and asked other countries not to issue travel advisories against visiting Kenya. Mr Kenyatta’s nephew and his fiancee were among the dead, the president said. The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that three Britons have been killed, and says the number is likely to rise. French, Chinese, Ghanaian and Canadian citizens are also among the foreigners confirmed killed, along with a dual Australian-British national. British Prime Minister David Cameron called it “an absolutely sickening and despicable attack of appalling brutality”. There is a heavy military presence both in and around the shopping centre. Sporadic gunfire can be heard from inside. Late on Sunday afternoon, a police helicopter and another with military camouflage swept low over the shopping centre.
There are reports that the gunmen are currently holed up in a supermarket. Mr Kenyatta said women were reported to be among the attackers but said this was unconfirmed. BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says a security source told him that at least one of the attackers was a woman who appeared to have a leadership role. The Somali militant group al-Shabab says it carried out the attack in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia. There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011.
‘Watching and monitoring’
Kenyan officials said “major operations” were under way, with police and soldiers preparing an apparent bid to bring an end to the stand-off. The BBC’s Will Ross at the scene said it would be extremely difficult for the military do a quick raid on the building because of all the people inside. Al-Shabab has claimed there are at least 36 hostages, but this cannot be independently confirmed. Our correspondent says the full extent of the attack will not be known until the military is back in control.