September 22, 2013 (NAIROBI) - The death toll in the Saturday’s afternoon attack in an upscale Kenyan shopping mall by the Somali militant group Al- Shabaab has risen to 59 and the injured to 175, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a state of the nation address on Sunday.
- A Kenyan army helicopter flies low near Westgate mall in Nairobi on September 22, 2013 (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Meanwhile world leaders have condemned the attack which has been claimed by the Somali militant group Al- Shabaab.
The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma called the attack ‘dastardly’’ and said it shows a need for a renewed effort to combat terrorism in Africa. Zuma said the AU is committed to work with its members to combat terrorism
‘‘ The Chairperson of the Commission reiterates the AU’s commitment to sustain its efforts to counter terrorism throughout the continent, as well as pursue efforts to stabilize the situation in Somalia and fight against Al- Shabaab, through its Mission in Somalia(AMISOM)’’ the AU said in a statement on Sunday.
The Ugandan government said the attack was an ‘‘act of desperation’’ by ‘‘evil elements’’.
‘‘The Government of the Republic of Uganda condemns in the strongest terms the barbaric, primitive and cowardly terrorist act by the Al-Shabaab at Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi,’’ Uganda said in a statement on Saturday.
‘‘It is [a] misguided act of desperation designed by evil elements to divide the people of Kenya and break the country’s resolve and to support the Global anti-terrorism fight and the on-going UN stabilization Mission in Somalia.’’
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday: ‘‘Today’s terrorist massacre of so many innocents is a heartbreaking reminder that there exists unspeakable evil in our world which can destroy life in a senseless instant,’’ adding ‘‘I want to express my deepest condolences - and the condolences of our entire nation - to the families and friends of the victims in Nairobi today. ‘’
Kerry said the US state department had not got any report on deaths of American citizens in the Saturday attack but he said a wife to a staff of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had been killed in the mall.
The Commonwealth Secretary- General, Kamalesh Sharma condemned the attack as heinous.
‘‘This is a heinous act which must be condemned in the strongest terms possible. The targeting and premeditated killing of defenseless civilians is absolutely reprehensible. It is my fervent hope that those behind this terrible attack will release the innocent children, women and men that they have taken hostage. The Commonwealth stands in total solidarity with the people of Kenya at this trying time.’’
30 hostages still being held, Israeli commandos involved in rescue efforts
On Sunday, a day after the deadly attack that is suspected to have been carried out by between 10-15 militants, Israel which partly owns mall, sent in security personnel to help the Kenyan security in rescue efforts.
Media reports said the militants are suspected to be holding 30 more hostages.
The nationalities of the militants are unknown but there have been reports that one of the attackers is a white female.
Kenyan military choppers and fighter jets hovered over the mall with President Uhuru saying that the militants had been cornered in only one section of the building.
Two helicopters landed atop the mall with Kenyan special forces, Israeli security and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) personnel leading to speculation of an impending attack on the militants. Israeli foreign ministry did not confirm nor deny the involvement of its forces in the Westgate rescue efforts.
President Kenyatta’s nephew among the dead
In his state of the nation address President Uhuru Kenyatta said his nephew and his fiancé where among the victims of the attack on the Westgate shopping mall.
The President’s eldest sister Christine Wambui Pratt, 61, was also in the mall at the time of the attack but escaped unhurt.
The Kenyan President promised punishment for the perpetrators of the attack saying:
‘‘We will punish the masterminds swiftly and painfully."
Briton, Ghanaian author, Canadian, among the dead
Two Britons, a famous Ghanaian author, poet and former UN diplomat, Kofi Awoonor, and a Canadian where among the dead in the Saturday attack.
Kofi Awoonor whose son was injured in the attack was due to speak at a literary festival in Nairobi.
The Al- Shabaab had warned Kenya several time that it was planning an attack in the country.
Since Kenya sent troops in Somalia to fight alongside Somali government troops against the militant group, Kenya has been attacked several times.
The attack on the mall, however, is the largest single since 1998 when al Qaeda attacked the US embassy in Kenya.