Kenyan forces push hard to end siege As death toll hits 68

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By Busolami Idowu

Kenyan security forces have launched a major assault on a shopping mall in the capital Nairobi to free hostages being held by al-Shabab fighters.

Armed men belonging to the Somali group had stormed the Westgate shopping centre a day earlier using grenades and assault rifles, leaving at least 68 people dead and more than 150 wounded, according to the Red Cross.

Gunfire and an explosion were heard from the shopping centre after dark on Sunday, as security forces intensified efforts to end the standoff amid fears that the death toll could rise sharply following the discovery of more corpses by security men inside the building.

Military helicopters were flying low over the area, and there were reports that security services had blown open a hole in the wall to get access to the building,
“There’s a lot of political pressure, a lot of pressure from relatives of the victims, to end the standoff quickly,” he said. “But it seems that security services are prepared to play the long game here if need be.

Meanwhile, al-Shabab, which has claimed responsibility for the siege, said on its Twitter feed that the “Kenyan government shall be held responsible for any loss of life as a result of such an imprudent move. The call is yours!”

It said “Kenyan forces who’ve just attempted a roof landing must know that they are jeopardising the lives of hostages.”

Kenyan forces have rescued about 1,000 people from the shopping centre, Joseph Lenku, Kenya’s interior cabinet secretary, said earlier on Sunday. 

“The priority is to save as many lives as possible,” he said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the complex.

Lenku said that there were 10 to 15 attackers involved, and Kenyan forces have control of the security cameras inside the mall. 

As daylight broke on Sunday, several people in hiding in the mall escaped to safety, suggesting that not everyone who was still inside was being held by the al-Shabab fighters

Cecile Ndwiga said she had been hiding under a car in the basement parking garage.

“I called my husband to ask the soldiers to come and rescue me. Because I couldn’t just walk out anyhow. The shootout was all over here, left, right, just gun shots,” she said.

Security forces had pushed curious crowds far back from the mall. Hundreds of residents gathered on a high ridge above the mall to watch for any activity.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms,” and reminded Kenya that any response must comply with international human rights law.

Kenyan troops have been fighting al-Shabab in Somalia, where the anti-government group is seeking to take over power.

Witnesses said the attackers opened fire and executed people after they threw grenades into the building at about midday local time (09:00 GMT) on Saturday

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