Troops fighting ‘one or two’ gunmen in Westgate mall

2013-09-24 08:32

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Nairobi – Kenyan special forces are still battling “one or two” Islamist militants holed up inside Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, according to security sources involved in the operation.

The sources told an AFP correspondent at the scene today that the militants were located and isolated on one of the upper floors of the complex. Sporadic gunfire and the sound of blasts could be heard coming from inside the mall, witnesses said.

An overnight silence outside the large, upmarket Westgate mall was broken at daybreak with a loud burst of gunfire from inside, suggesting the complex had not yet been fully secured. A lone military chopper circled above.

“Our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind. We believe all hostages have been released,” the interior ministry said on Twitter early today, adding his forces were “in control” of the building.

A trickle of survivors left yesterday, but the fate of the missing was unclear four days after a group of between 10 and 15 militants stormed the mall, which with its rich clientele epitomised the African consumer bonanza that is drawing foreign investment to one of the world’s fastest growing regions.

Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said in a US television interview that “two or three Americans” and a British woman were among the militants who led the attack, launched on Saturday and claimed by Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group.

Mohamed told the “PBS Newshour” show the Americans were “young men, about between maybe 18 and 19” years old. They were of Somali or Arab origin, and had lived in the US, “in Minnesota and one other place”, she said.

US authorities are urgently looking into information from the Kenyan government that residents of Western countries, including the US, may have been among the militants, US security sources said.

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