Several hours after the Kenya attack, Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked militant group based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Al-Shabaab tweets that all Muslims were escorted out of Nairobi mall before violence, says it won’t negotiate.
In latest tweets received by eTN: Kenyan police official says 1 gunman wounded, several others pinned down in mall attack – @IGkimaiyo
US State Department condemns “senseless act of violence” in Kenya – @Reuters
US State Department says it has received reports of US citizen injuries in Kenya mall attack; US embassy offering assistance – @Reuters
Al-Shabaab confirms to @AJELive that it has claimed responsibility for the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya
30 killed, 60 wounded in Nairobi mall attack, Kenyan Red Cross, police say – @AFP
Kenyan government tweets that 1 mall attacker arrested – @Reuters
Earlier today eTN correspondence Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome and local wire services reported about ongoing emerging news from Nairobi that gunfire has been reported from the West Gate Mall, one of Kenya’s largest mall located in the capital Nairobi. A major police and security operation is now underway and have confirmed that a hostage situation exists with possibly significant numbers of mall visitors trapped inside.
The mall is frequented by locals, expat and tourists alike.
A witness said that gunmen armed with AK-47s and grenades told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted, according to The Associated Press. Police sources now say TV’s inside the mall were shut down live transmissions to keep vital information of what is going on outside away from perpetrators and deny them updates on ongoing operation.
A Kenya Red Cross official said at least 30 people are dead, but the Kenya and 40 wounded.
ETN was told at least 1000 wounded have so far reached the emergency room at the Aga Khan University Hospital and other medical facilities in Nairobi.
“The Mujahideen entered #WestgateMall today at around noon and are still inside the mall,” the Islamic extremist group said on its Twitter account.
One suspect was killed, said a Kenyan official who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information. There were also 100 people injured, the official said.
All major TV and radio networks are on site but security organs, in fact Kenya’s Inspector General of Police is on site himself, have directed all networks to cease live transmissions which could aid those who perpetrated the attack and reveal details of the police operation now underway. The general public has also been urged to refrain from posting Twitter or Facebook pictures but that appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears as more and more such information is now available on the net.
Some reports speak of as many as 10 attackers but the motive remains in the dark, uncertain if it was a plain robbery attempt gone wrong or if other motives are behind the attack. There are indications that foreign security specialists are aiding the Kenyan police and special forces and they are now having airborne surveillance underway with at least one helicopter circling overhead.
Emergency services led by the Kenya Red Cross are on site too but in the absence of more detailed information it is impossible to say with any certainty if any casualties have already been brought out to be treated or if the pursuit of the gun men is still underway, as several additional gun shots were heard just moments ago from both inside and outside the mall. Vehicles of the fire brigade and other mobile assets have arrived and are standing by for deployment.
The Mall, one of Nairobi’s most popular with a range of restaurants, major supermarkets, cafes and movie theaters attracts thousands of shoppers especially on weekends.
Police outside have also pushed the crowds of spectators outside back to establish a wider perimeter, to ensure the safety of the general public since shots have periodically emerged from the building.
Embassies in Nairobi have urged their citizens to avoid the wider neighborhood of the mall and the Red Cross has already made a public appeal for donations of blood to boost medical capabilities when shooting victims eventually reach the hospitals, all of which have been put on high alert to prepare for incoming emergency treatment.
“It is a possibility that it is an attack by terrorists, so we are treating the matter very seriously,” Mutea Iringo, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Interior told Reuters.
“They don’t seem like thugs, this is not a robbery incident,” Yukeh Mannasseh, who was on the mall’s top floor when the shooting started, told Reuters.
The situation currently has been reported as fluid and Kenya’s main TV stations are now in breaking news mode, reporting from their studios and relying on phone in reports by their field staff.