Islamists claim gun attack on Nairobi mall, at least 30 Dead

Customers run following a shootout between unidentified armed men and the police at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairob. Credit: Reuters
Customers run following a shootout between unidentified armed men and the police at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairob.
Credit: Reuters

Gunmen stormed a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Saturday, killing at least 30 people including children and sending scores fleeing in panic, in an attack claimed by the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab.

Shooting continued hours after the initial assault as troops surrounded the Westgate mall and police and soldiers combed the building, hunting the attackers shop by shop. A police officer inside the building said the gunmen were barricaded inside a Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya’s biggest chains.

“We got three bodies from this shop,” said volunteer Vipool Shah, 64, standing a dozen meters from the supermarket entrance and pointing to a children’s shoe shop where blood lay in pools.

Shah turned to a nearby hamburger bar where piped music still played and food lay abandoned. “And a couple of bodies here.”

Al Shabaab, which is battling Kenyan and other African peacekeepers in Somalia, had repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi does not pull its troops out of the Horn of Africa country.

“The Kenyan govt (government) is pleading with our Mujahideen (holy warriors) inside the mall for negotiations,” the group said on its official Twitter handle @HSM_Press. “There will be no negotiations whatsoever at #Westgate.”

Another al-Shabaab tweet read: “For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land.”

The assault was the single biggest attack in Kenya since al Qaeda’s east Africa cell bombed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people. In 2002, the same militant cell attacked an Israeli-owned hotel and tried to shoot down an Israeli jet in a coordinated attack.

GUNMAN DEAD

The Kenyan presidency said on its Twitter feed that one wounded gunman had been arrested, but had died in hospital.

The U.S. State Department said it had reports that American citizens had been injured.

Tiles at the mall were smeared with blood, bullet casings were strewn on the floor and shop windows were shattered. A policeman dragged the corpse of a young girl across the floor and laid her on a stretcher. Two policemen lay on the floor with guns trained on the supermarket entrance.

Some local television stations reported hostages had been taken, but there was no official confirmation.

Kenyan forces first entered Somalia two years ago to try to stem incursions by al Qaeda-linked militants.

Al Shabaab, which Kenya blames for shootings, bombings and grenade attacks against churches and the security forces, had threatened before to strike Westgate, a mall popular with the city’s expatriates, as well as other soft targets such as nightclubs and hotels known to be popular with Westerners.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said it was too early to draw conclusions. “We don’t have any proof that the people who did this are Somali,” he told Reuters in Washington.

One woman leaving the building told a journalist that one of the attackers had told all Muslims to leave the area. Survivors told Reuters at least one of the attackers was a woman.

Police helicopters circled above shortly after the initial assault as armed police shouted “Get out! Get out!” and scores of shoppers fled the sand-colored stone building. Smoke poured from one entrance and witnesses said they heard grenade blasts.

Others said they saw about five assailants storm the mall.

TERRIFIED SHOPPERS

The shopping center includes a number of Israeli-owned businesses, though it was not immediately clear if these had been targeted specifically. At least four Israeli nationals escaped the assault, one with light wounds.

“As of now, this appears to be an internal Kenyan incident, that is, a terrorist attack but not one that specifically targeted Israelis,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

One eyewitness who identified himself as Taha said he had heard the screech of brakes followed moments later by an explosion, and then sustained gunfire from the ground floor.

Satpal Singh, 36, who was in a 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.”

Some shoppers ran up stairs and escalators and hid around the mall’s cinema complex. Police found another terrified group hiding in a toilet on the first floor.

Some wounded were wheeled out on stretchers and shopping trolleys. Other walked out, some with bloodied clothing wrapped around wounds. Dozens of wounded were ferried away by ambulance.

“So far we have 30 dead at the mall,” said Kenyan Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Guled. He added he expected more wounded and dead.

Police cordoned off the roads surrounding the mall in central Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood.

“I personally touched the eyes of four people and they were dead. One of them was a child,” said one former British soldier at the scene. “It’s carnage up there.”

(This story corrects attribution in paragraphs 3 and 4 to volunteer, not police officer)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…