President Obama, according to a White House statement, called President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya to express condolences to the government and people of Kenya for the terrorist attack carried out by al-Shabaab on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. “President Obama reiterated U.S. support for Kenya’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice. The President also reaffirmed the strong and historic partnership between the United States and Kenya as well as our shared commitment to combating terrorism and promoting peace and prosperity in East Africa and around the world.”
Terrorists kill 62 in Kenya Westgate mall attack: Live Reports and Reaction
Compiled by Ruth Holmes (AFP)
Special to USAfricaonline.com, CLASSmagazine and USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. Follow Twitter.com/Chido247, Facebook.com/MandelaAchebeChido, Facebook.com/USAfricaChido , Facebook.com/USAfrica247
Kenyan troops are still in a standoff with militants, despite assurances from early this morning that the operation is nearing an end. Here are today’s main developments:
– A total of 62 people have been confirmed as killed by the Red Cross, seven lower than the figure previously reported, due to double-counting of bodies. 63 are recorded missing;
– The Interior Ministry says it is in control of all floors of the four-storey mall and that three of the militants have been killed and several injured, with all possible escape routes sealed off;
– Police say they have arrested more than 10 people in relation to the attack which was claimed by Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents;
– Firefighters have contained a blaze started by the attackers which sent a thick cloud of smoke billowing from the complex and continued to dominate the Nairobi skyline as night fell.
Timeline September 23, 2013:
1620 GMT: Police say they are expecting Vice President William Ruto “any time from now”.
The International Criminal Court earlier excused Ruto from his trial on charges of crimes against humanity for a week so he can deal with the attack. He was due to return to Kenya from The Hague Monday evening.
1614 GMT: AFPTV’s footage of the scene at the mall earlier today, when gun fire and loud explosions erupted, can now be seen on our YouTube channel.
Gunshots sent journalists running for cover outside the mall as troops battled to save hostages inside.
In an interview with AFPTV, Laban Onditi Rao, of Kenya’s National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urges members of the business community to “do business with no fear”.
1606 GMT: Police say firefighters have contained the fire at Westgate which sent thick plumes of black smoke billowing in the skies.
1601 GMT: Authorities seek to quell any racial tensions in the wake of the attack, particularly on the Internet. Tweets on the official Kenya Police and Interior Ministry accounts say: “We urge all Kenyans online to be responsible in your engagement. Any tribal/racial slurs will not be tolerated.”
1552 GMT: “We’ve arrested more than 10 individuals for questioning in relation to the Westgate attack,” police said in a message on their Twitter account.
Earlier the Interior Ministry said several people had been arrested at the airport.
1546 GMT: More from Kerry at the UN: “The bottom line is that this tragedy is a terrible reminder to all of us that we share a stake in one another. What happens in one country, we are reminded day to day, matters to many others, to all of us.”
Five Americans are known to be among around 200 people wounded in the attack.
US officials say they are also investigating (unverified) reports by CNN that some Americans were among the attackers.
1542 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at a UN conference in New York, pledges his support to the Kenyan people. He says: “Ruthless and valueless terrorists remain a serious challenge everywhere in the world as we all know, whether it’s in downtown Manhattan or in a mall in Nairobi, or anywhere else in the world.
“And all of us have a responsibility to remain vigilant. We stand with the Kenyan people…. they are resilient people and they will need the world’s support in the coming difficult days.”
1539 GMT: Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) say firefighters from various agencies are working to control a fire started in the building by the terrorists — by setting alight mattresses to distract the ongoing operation.
KDF also has the following updates on casualties on their Twitter account:
“In the last 24hours, 10 more bodies have been retrieved from the building.
“Over 200 civilians have been rescued with 65 receiving treatment in various hospitals. Unfortunately 62 have been confirmed dead.”
1531 GMT: In updates on Twitter Kenyan Defence Forces say they are dominating all floors and now concentrating on clearing the building.
“We can confirm that 3 terrorists have been killed so far, a few others have suffered injuries,” one tweet says.
“Chances of any terrorists sneaking and escaping are very slim. KDF troops have sealed all possible escape routes.”
1527 GMT: Citing the Inspector General of the National Police Service David Kimayo, Kenya Police tweets: “We have taken control of all the floors. We’re not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them via @IGKimayo.”
1517 GMT: Kenyan Defence Forces say almost a dozen soldiers have been wounded during the ongoing mission. @kdfinfo tweets: “Regrettably, 11 KDF soldiers have been injured in this operation and are receiving medical attention at the Defence Forces Memorial Hospital.
“KDF expresses sympathy to the injured and condoles the families that have lost their loved ones in this attack.
“We hail the efforts of the brave and selfless men and women who are putting their lives on the line in the Defence of our country.”
1505 GMT: Kenyan Interior Minister Joesph Ole Lenku says security forces are in control of “all floors” of the four-storey Westgate mall.
Authorities have since early this morning been saying they are hopeful of a “speedy conclusion” to the operation — but despite assurances that the end is near, the operation drags on.
“Our forces are in control of all the floors,” tweets Lenku @joelenku.
1456 GMT: Kenyan police say they are doing everything they can to ensure that the hostages come out alive. It’s still not known how many are holed up inside the mall where militants are using them as human shields, though 63 people are recorded missing.
A Kenya Police tweet says: “We’re appealing to Kenyans to remain calm, security team is doing everything possible to ensure that the hostages/team are safe.”
Despite several explosions and sounds of gunfire today there have been no reports of further fatalities during the standoff, other than the two militants confirmed dead by the interior ministry.
1448GMT: A message of solidarity on Twitter from Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame who says: “Kenya should not feel alone – the region, African and the world are with you. The Kenyan spirit is strong and will prevail.”
1439 GMT: Sobeki describes shocking scenes of bodies piled up by gunmen. She writes: “Jutting out from behind the statue of an elephant were the legs of yet another victim.
“As more security forces moved into the store I and the other journalists remaining inside were asked to leave through the main entrance, where bodies had been piled up by the shooters to hinder access to the mall.”
She also recounts how people in a sushi restaurant sought safety by hiding inside an air vent.
1420 GMT: You can now read the account of AFPTV journalist Nichole Sobeki — the only TV journalist to gain access to the mall just after the attacks began Saturday — online. She stayed for three hours inside the complex with her husband Tyler Hicks, a photojournalist for the New York Times.
“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,” she writes.
Nichole describes “scenes of horror” but also “moments of fellowship… strangers helping each other away from danger. The bravery of members of the security forces and civilians.”
1400 GMT: For those just joining us, here is a summary of the day’s events so far as the siege continues at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall:
-A total of 62 people have been confirmed as killed by the Red Cross, seven lower than the figure previously reported, due to double-counting of bodies;
-Kenyan security forces have launched a final push to secure the mall from Somali Islamist gunmen;
-Witnesses outside have reported a thick cloud of black smoke billowing up from the mall as well as explosions and gunfire;
– Israeli forces are thought to be involved in the operation, along with British and US agents.
1345 GMT: Kenya Red Cross figures revising down the death toll from 69 to 62 have been confirmed by Kenya’s Interior Ministry. The ministry’s Twitter account says 58 people are still in various hospitals in the capital.
1338 GMT: In her account of the scene at the morgue, Helen Vesperini says the impact of the attack has been felt across society. “In a country so often defined by its ethnic and class divisions, Kenyans seemed united in grief,” she writes.
Sarah Mbone, an elderly woman at the morgue, tells her: “Everyone was affected by this attack. President (Uhuru) Kenyatta lost his nephew, and me, just an ordinary person, I lost my niece. She had popped into the bank.”
1332 GMT: AFP’s Helen Vesperini brings us some harrowing accounts from Nairobi morgue.
Alice Karechu, 63, lost her bank manager husband David Muthumbi Karechu in the attack. She says: “Yesterday we were moving around from hospital to hospital looking for him. Now we are here for the post mortem.”
Their eldest son, Zachary, says: “I did not know where he had gone. Around five on Saturday, Mum called me and asked if I had been able to get in touch with him.
“It was when we were watching the news that we started to realise it was a possibility Dad had been caught up in that attack. We searched the whole of Saturday night and the whole of Sunday.”
1326 GMT: Kenya’s Interior Ministry says it has made several arrests. An official tweet states: “ALERT: We’ve arrested some individuals at the airport for questioning. We ask officers dealing with vital ID docs to be very careful.”
1315 GMT: Back at Westgate itself, journalists are reporting a number of explosions resounding from the mall. East Africa correspondent Hannah McNeish tweets: “Many explosions sounding inside Westgate, people shouting on streets.
In another post she describes clashes between police and onlookers: “Police use tear gas against crowd just in front of us. Many explosions.”
1310 GMT: Karim Khan, the lawyer of Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto, describes the Nairobi attack as Kenya’s 9/11.
He was speaking at the International Criminal Court in The Hague where he asked for his client to be excused in order to return to Kenya. Ruto’s trial for alleged crimes against humanity was adjourned for at least a week.
“The world would have found it intolerable if the US president and deputy president wasn’t there after 9/11,” Khan told the court.