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Kenya terror attack: Nairobi mall siege nears end,2 ‘terrorists’ killed

It remained unclear how many gunmen and hostages were still cornered in the mall.

Written by Reuters | Nairobi |
September 23, 2013 5:20:23 pm

Four thunderous explosions rattled Nairobi’s besieged upscale mall as Kenyan forces closed in on Islamist terrorists holding hostages Monday,three days after a raid by Somalia’s al-Shabaab killed at least 62 people.

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Top Kenyan officials said two hostage takers,part of “a multinational collection from all over the world,” had been killed. It remained unclear how many gunmen and hostages were still cornered in the Westgate shopping centre,two hours after a series of loud explosions and gunfire were followed by a plume of black smoke,that grew in volume from one part of the complex.

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Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the evacuation of hostages “has gone very,very well” and that Kenyan officials are “very certain” that there are few,if any,hostages left in the building.

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Lenku told a news conference that the militants — all men,although some wore women’s clothing during the assault — had set a fire with mattresses in a supermarket on the mall’s lower floors. Two “terrorists” had been killed Monday,he added.

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Kenya’s Chief of Defence forces,Gen. Julius Karangi,said fighters from an array of nations participated in the attack claimed by al-Shabaab,an al Qaeda-linked Somali group.

Among those killed was Ruhila Adatia-Sood,a popular media personality of Indian-origin. She was married to Ketan Sood,who works for USAid in Nairobi,and was pregnant,media reports said.

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Karangi said Kenyan forces were in charge of all floors inside the mall,although terrorists could still be hiding inside. Security officials near the scene said the blasts heard at lunchtime were caused by Kenyan forces blasting a way in after President Uhuru Kenyatta Sunday dismissed a demand that he pull Kenyan forces out of neighbouring Somalia.

The four explosions were followed by volleys of gunfire,then a thick,dark column of smoke that burned for roughly 90 minutes. Military and police helicopters and one plane circled over the mall,giving the upscale neighborhood the feel of a war zone.

Al-Shabaab warned it would kill hostages if police moved in. From neighboring Somalia,spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage for al-Shabaab said in an audio file posted on a website that the hostage takers had been ordered to “take punitive action against the hostages” if force was used to try to rescue them.

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