September 23, 2013 (NAIROBI) - Kenyan specials forces with advice from Israeli and American experts for a third day running battled Al-Shabaab militants inside the up-scale Westgate mall which the militants attacked on Saturday afternoon killing several unarmed civilians and injuring many more.
The Kenyan military said on Monday that ‘‘three terrorists’’ had been killed by its special forces in fights the mall.
The death toll in Saturday’s attack had by Monday risen to 62, with 179 injured and more than 1,000 hospitalised, according to the Daily Nation newspaper of Kenya.
For most of Monday, loud explosions could be heard from inside the upscale mall with dark smoke billowing from the roof of the shopping centre frequented by affluent Kenyans and westerners in Nairobi.
IN FULL CONTROL OF THE BESIEGED MALL
A Kenyan military spokesperson said security forces were in control of the five story mall despite continued sporadic bursts of gun fire and even fire outbreaks from inside the building.
“Most of the hostages have been released, and the Kenya Defence Forces has taken control of most parts of the building”, said Col Cyrus Oguna, spokesperson of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).
The government also said many of the hostages had been rescued but it was not immediately clear whether it was only hostages being held by the militants or including those suspected to be hiding in other parts of the building.
The Kenyan military spokesperson repeated what President Uhuru Kenyatta said in his state of the national address on Sunday, that the government would not negotiate with Al-Shabaab.
On Monday Reuters reported that an Al-Shabaab spokesperson had in an audio posted online threatened to kill hostages if Kenya special forces use force the militants holed inside the mall.
“The mujahideen will kill the hostages if the enemies use force. Israelis and Kenyan forces have tried to enter Westgate by force, but they could not,’’ said Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage in the online message.
Nationality of the attackers known says Kenyan official
As the siege of the mall continued on to the third day, Kenya’s chief of general staff, Julius Karangi, said the authorities now know the nationality of Al-Shabaab militants involved in the Westgate attack.
"We have an idea who they are, their nationality and even the number," said Julius Karangi, Kenya’s chief of general staff, adding that militants were "clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," said Karanji.
Karanji did not however say the nationalities of the attackers.
Various media reports said among Al-shabaab attackers are Americans, Britons and Somalis, among others.
By Monday evening there was no indication that the siege was about to end despite intense activity around the mall by Kenyan security officials.
But Kenya’s interior ministry said there were few hostages left in the building signalling perhaps that an end to the siege was near.
RUTO GETS TIME OFF FROM THE ICC
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto was on Monday morning granted a one week absence from his hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague where he is being accused of crimes against humanity.
Almost immediately, the Kenyan deputy President hoped into the next plane to Kenya and was by Monday afternoon vowing in an address to the press at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to bring the perpetrators of the attack to book.
The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor immediately appealed against the ruling of the judges to grant Ruto absence from his hearing to address the aftermath of the Westgate attack.
President Uhuru Kenyatta who has also been accused of war crimes, and whose trial is supposed to start in November has also asked the court, for the second time, to allow him not to be physically present at all the hearings in The Hague to allow him continue with constitutional duties during the trial.