UPDATE – Non-Muslims Targeted: Al-Qaeda-Linked Al-Shabaab Gunmen Kill At Least 39, 293 Wounded In Kenya Mall Attack
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Sep 21, 2013 Comments Off Chuck Biscuits

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An armed police searches through a shopping centre for gunmen

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) – Armed gunmen waged a tense standoff with Kenyan police and soldiers inside an upscale Nairobi shopping mall early Sunday, hours after brazenly gunning down shoppers, diners and more.

There was some movement around 1:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. ET), when five “visibly shaken” hostages were released, the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre tweeted. But that didn’t mean this horrific story was over as attackers remained dug in, as authorities bore down on them, and as an unknown number of civilians — perhaps dead or being held hostage — remained unaccounted for inside.

There were 39 confirmed dead as of around midnight Saturday, according to Kenya’s president, who added his close relatives are among those killed. Two gunmen, including one who was detained after being shot, are also dead.

Francis Kimenia, secretary to the Cabinet, tweeted another 293 people got treatment at three area hospitals, which “are appealing for more blood.”

(CNN) – [Breaking news alert, 4:35 p.m. ET]

The death toll in a hostage standoff at a Nairobi mall has risen to at least 39 dead and 150 wounded, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address Saturday.

“I know what you feel having also personally lost very close family members in this attack,” he said.

Kenyatta vowed to hunt down those behind the attack, saying the country has “overcome come terrorist attacks before … and we will defeat them again.”

(CNN) – [Breaking news 3:18 p.m.] Members of Al-Shabaab — the militant group linked to al Qaeda that’s claimed responsibility for Saturday’s deadly mall attack in Kenya — tweeted that “there will be no negotiations whatsoever” at the mall.

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Al-Shabaab also tweeted Saturday that “all Muslims inside #Westgate” — referring to the Kenyan mall that was attacked — “were escorted out by the Mujahideen before” the violence began.

(CNN) — The death toll grew to 30 people in Saturday attack by gunmen on an upscale shopping mall in the Kenyan capital, leading to a fierce gunbattle with police and a hostage standoff, authorities said.

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One suspect was killed, said 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.

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenya Red Cross official says at least 22 people have been killed in an attack on an upscale Nairobi mall.

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Abbas Gullet said Saturday there are likely more dead from the attack that saw gunmen using grenades and gunfire. Kenya’s military surrounded the Westgate mall hours after the midday attack in the upscale Westlands neighborhood in Kenya’s capital.

Nairobi police Chief Benson Kibue blamed the attack on terrorists, though he did not name a group.

A witness said that the attackers said they were targeting non-Muslims.

An al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group had threatened large-scale attacks on Kenya for sending its military into Somalia.

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Gunmen stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi on Saturday killing at least 15 people in what Kenya’s government said might be a terrorist attack, and sending scores fleeing into shops, a cinema and onto the streets in search of safety.

Sporadic gun shots could be heard hours after the assault started as soldiers surrounded the mall and police combed the building, hunting down the attackers shop by shop. Some local television stations reported hostages had been taken, but there was no official confirmation.

According to one witness Kenyan soldiers joined an operation to flush out gunmen.

The Associated Press cites one witness who said non-Muslims were being targeted by the attackers.

“The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted,” Elijah Kamau told the AP.

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A injured man reveives assistance from a paramedic after masked gunmen stormed an upmarket mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff, killing at least six on September 21, 2013 in Nairobi. The Gunmen have taken at least seven hostages, police and security guards told an. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

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A wounded woman is helped to safety after masked gunmen stormed an upmarket mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff, killing at least six on September 21, 2013 in Nairobi. The Gunmen have taken at least seven hostages, police and security guards told an. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The Somali militant group al Shabaab, which Kenya blames for shootings, bombings and grenade attacks against churches and the security forces, had threatened to strike the Westgate mall, popular with the city’s expatriate community. The chain of attacks follows action by Kenyan forces against al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia two years ago.

Police helicopters circled above the mall as armed police shouted “get out, get out”, and scores of shoppers fled the building. Smoke poured out of one entrance and witnesses said they heard grenade blasts.

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A woman is trolled into an ambulance after masked gunmen stormed an upmarket mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff, killing at least thirteen on September 21, 2013 in Nairobi. The Gunmen have taken at least seven hostages, police and security guards told an. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Others said they saw about five armed assailants storm the Westgate shopping mall and that the incident appeared to be an attack rather than an armed robbery.

“They don’t seem like thugs, this is not a robbery incident,” said Yukeh Mannasseh who was on the mall’s top floor when the shooting started. “It seems like an attack. The guards who saw them said they were shooting indiscriminately.”

Kenya’s Ministry of Interior said: “It is a possibility that it is an attack by terrorists, so we are treating the matter very seriously.”.

Asked if foreign security services were involved in the operation to flush out the attackers, he said, “At this stage it has not become necessary yet.”

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

Another survivor said he was shot by a man who looked Somali.

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.

At least two dozen wounded were wheeled out on stretchers and shopping trolleys. Many of the victims had multiple light wounds, apparently from flying debris. Other walked out, some with bloodied clothing wrapped around wounds.

The Kenyan Red Cross told Reuters at least 15 had been killed and more casualties were still inside the complex.

“The casualties are many, and that’s only what we have on the outside,” Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Guled said. “Inside there are even more casualties and shooting is still going on.”

“CARNAGE”

Al Shabaab have previously threatened to launch strikes on Nairobi’s tower blocks and soft targets including nightclubs and hotels known to be popular with Westerners in the capital. But they have so far failed to carry out such an attack.

“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.”

Asked if the attack was a robbery, one paramilitary officer said: “No, terrorist”. There has, though, been no official statement from the police regarding the attackers’ motive.

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

Satpal Singh, who was in another 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,” 36-year-old Singh said.