Al-Shabaab fighters ‘still holding hostages’ as siege continues

2013-09-24 11:00

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Islamist al-Shabaab fighters have claimed to still be holding hostages inside a Nairobi shopping mall, as they continued to battle special forces on the fourth day of a deadly siege.

Sporadic shooting at the upmarket Westgate mall broke out again at dawn, hours after officials had claimed Kenyan troops were in “control” of the sprawling complex.

“The hostages who were being held by the mujahedeen inside Westgate are still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive,” al-Shabaab said in a message posted on their latest Twitter account.

At least 62 shoppers and staff have been killed and close to 200 wounded in the siege, but concerns are high that the toll may yet rise.

Security sources said “one or two” militants were barricaded in or around a casino on one of the upper floors of the complex.

Somalia’s al-Shabaab insurgents have claimed the attack, which began midday on Saturday when the armed militants marched into the packed upscale complex, tossing grenades, firing automatic weapons and sending panicked shoppers fleeing.

Bursts of heavy gunfire were heard this morning by an AFP reporter close to the mall.

Al-Shabaab also claimed fighters were there “still holding their ground” as they bragged about the “countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall”.

A string of Twitter accounts run by al-Shabaab have been shut down since the attack began, but the militants have been swift to open new sites.

The extremists also apparently verified as genuine a photograph recently circulating on the internet, purportedly showing two gunmen in black headscarves ambling past a children’s sweet stall in the mall.

The undated photograph, apparently from a security camera, showed their fighters “unruffled and strolling around the mall” in a “sang-froid manner”.

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