Al-Shabab vs Kenya: NAIROBI Westgate Mall Massacre death toll rises (59 Bodies), hostage standoff continues as terrorists still inside

The attack by al Qaeda-linked militants at an upscale mall in Nairobi killed at least 59 people and wounded 175, Kenya’s interior Cabinet secretary said Sunday.

Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where there is a hostage standoff with Islamic extremists nearly 24 hours after they attacked using grenades and assault rifles.

“The priority is to save as many lives as possible,” Joseph Lenku said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the upscale Westgate mall. Kenyan forces have already rescued about 1,000 people, he said.

Lenku said that there are 10 to 15 attackers involved, and Kenyan forces have control of the security cameras inside the mall. Combined military and police forces surrounded the building.

Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters at the mall that he has been told officials couldn’t determine the exact number of hostages inside the mall.

westgate2“There are quite a number of people still being held hostage on the third floor and the basement area where the terrorists are still in charge,” Odinga said.

Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack in which they specifically targeted non-Muslims.

weste-gateAl-Shabab told the BBC it carried out the attack in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia. Kenya has for several years now had a few thousands troops in southern Somalia near their shared border battling militants.

westgate3Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including French, Canadians and Chinese.

10 to 15 gunmen still inside

Freelance journalist James Reinl told CBC News from Nairobi it’s believed that “something like 10, 15 gunmen” remain inside the building with hostages.

westgate police“We understand that there is a final standoff where the security services are ready to launch a raid on the final number of gunmen who are in the building with hostages,” Reinl said. “We don’t know how many civilians are inside, exactly, particularly because there will be many hiding in different parts of the building.”

westgateAn Israeli security source told The Associated Press that Israeli advisers are “helping with the negotiating strategy,” but added that “no Israelis involved in any imminent storming operation.”

Kenya’s interior cabinet secretary Joseph Lenku said that Kenyan forces have control of the security cameras inside the mall. Combined military and police forces have surrounded the building.

westgate-2The gunmen remain inside with hostages nearly 24 hours after they launched the attack with grenades and assault rifles.

In a televised address, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said 39 people had died in the attack and 150 were injured.

He said security forces were in the process of ‘neutralising the attackers and securing the mall’ in what was a ‘delicate’ operation but those responsible would be  hunted down and punished.

President Kenyatta’s Nephew and his wife are among the Kenyans killed in the attack, as Mr Uhuru has already said, “I know what you feel, having also personally lost very close family members in this attack.”

One of the gunmen, who was shot and arrested, has now died, the Kenyan Presidency told Reuters.

alshabab twitterAn Indian national, Satpal Singh, who was in another cafe on the mall’s top floor said he ran downstairs when he heard the gunfire and was shot at near the mall’s main exit.

“A Somali guy shot at me. The guy who shot me was carrying a rifle, an AK-47,” 36-year-old Singh said.

The Foreign Office updated the travel advice on its website to say: “British nationals should avoid the area”.

©Agencies and international News Organizations