Nairobi, Sep 21: Masked gunmen stormed a packed upmarket shopping mall in Nairobi today, killing at least 39 people and wounding about 150 people in a massacre claimed by Somalia’s Shebab rebels.
A security source said police and soldiers had finally “pinned down” the gunmen after hours of fierce gunbattles and painstaking evacuations, with police going shop to shop to secure the Westgate shopping mall.
“The attackers have been isolated and are pinned down in an area on one of the floors. The rest of the mall seems to be secure,” the source told AFP at the scene.
Senior police sources described the attackers as a well-organised “terror gang” numbering around 10. The mall, which is popular with expatriates and is part Israeli-owned, was packed with around 1,000 shoppers when it was besieged at midday.
The Shebab tweet said the group’s warnings over Kenya’s military presence in Somalia had been ignored.
Shebab “on numerous occasions warned the Kenyan government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences,” it said.
“The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia #Westgate,” the group tweeted via its @HSM_Press account.
“The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders,” it said.
Kenyan forces entered Somalia two years ago to fight the Shebab, and remain in the country as part of an African Union force that is supporting Somalia’s internationally backed government.