Shabaab claims responsibility for Nairobi mall attack

2013-09-21 20:42
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Kenya mall attack

Several people have died after gunmen opened fire and lobbed grenades in an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. See the pictures here.

Nairobi - Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab rebels on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, saying on Twitter it was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia.

"The Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar inside their own turf," the group said on Twitter.

The rebels said on Twitter its warnings of "severe consequences" for Kenya's military presence in Somalia had been ignored, hours after unidentified gunmen attacked a Nairobi shopping mall.

Shabaab said it had "on numerous occasions warned the Kenyan government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences", without directly claiming responsibility for the assault on the Westgate mall.

"The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia #Westgate," the group tweeted via its @HSM_Press account.

"The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders," it said.

Gun fire

Militant gunmen stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi on Saturday killing at least 25 people, including children, and sending scores fleeing in panic from shops and restaurants onto the streets, according to witnesses and the Red Cross.

Shooting continued hours after the initial assault as troops surrounded the Westgate mall and police and soldiers combed the building, hunting down the attackers shop by shop. A police officer inside the building said the gunmen were barricaded inside the Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya's biggest chains.

One eyewitness who identified himself as Taha said he heard the screech of brakes followed moments later by an explosion and then sustained gun fire from the ground floor.

Another survivor said he was shot by a man who looked Somali.

Some shoppers ran up stairs and escalators and hid around the mall's cinema complex. Police found another terrified group hiding in a toilet on the first floor.

Some wounded were wheeled out on stretchers and shopping trolleys. Many of the victims had multiple light wounds, apparently from flying debris. Other walked out, some with bloodied clothing wrapped around wounds. Dozens of wounded were ferried away by ambulance.

"I have counted twenty five dead, and that is just from the mall alone," said Kenyan Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Guled.

"The attackers are still inside the Nakumatt supermarket and we have not entered there, so we expect more wounded and dead. Then we have those wounded taken to the hospitals, the death toll could be high."

Al-Shabaab have previously threatened to launch strikes on Nairobi's tower blocks and soft targets including nightclubs and hotels known to be popular with Westerners in the capital. But they have so far failed to carry out such an attack.

"I personally touched the eyes of four people and they were dead. One of them was a child," said one former British soldier at the scene.

"It's carnage up there."
Read more on:    kenya  |  east africa  |  kenya mall atack  |  security

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