Kenya official says two terrorists killed in battle at mall
Ben Curtis / AP
Three powerful explosions and bursts of gunfire resounded early
Monday at a shopping mall in Kenya where heavily armed militants were
still believed to be holding hostages on the third day of a standoff
that left at least 68 people dead.
A column of thick, black smoke
rose from one section of the mall. Kenyan authorities, who vowed the
night before to end the siege, said that they had the gunmen and
hostages confined to one section of the mall.
David Kimaiyo, the
inspector general of the Kenyan police, said on Twitter early Monday
that more hostages had been rescued and that authorities were
"increasingly gaining advantage of the attackers."
A Kenyan security source told NBC News that a military operation had
blown an opening in the back of the mall, partly as a diversionary
tactic. At least some of the gunfire was believed intended to scatter
crowds around the mall.
Ole Lenku, the Kenyan secretary of the interior, told reporters
Monday that two terrorists had been killed earlier in the day. He said
that some of the attackers who seized the mall were dressed as women.
militants launched their siege of the facility, Westgate Shopping Mall,
on Saturday afternoon. Al Shabab, a Somali terrorist organization
linked to al Qaeda, said that it was behind the assault and that it was
retribution for a 2011 push by Kenya into Somalia.
from the attack on Saturday showed shoppers ducking for cover around
aisles of merchandise as loud volleys of gunfire echoed in the
"It seemed like anywhere you looked there would be
another body," said Tyler Hicks, a photographer for The New York Times
who lives nearby and raced to the scene. "Terrified people were crying,
screaming, just running for their lives."
The FBI said that it was
investigating whether as many as five Americans were among the team of
terrorists who captured the mall. But a senior FBI official said there
was no hard evidence of American involvement yet.
Reuters put the
number of attackers at 10 to 15. They hurled grenades and sprayed
automatic fire, and witnesses said that they used AK-47 rifles and wore
belts of ammunition. In addition to the dead, at least 175 people,
including children, were hurt.
"They were shooting from the exit ramp, shooting everywhere," a woman
who gave her name as Cecilia told Reuters after emerging from the mall
Sunday. "I saw people being shot all around me, some with blood pouring
from bad wounds."
"I was just praying, praying, ‘God, keep me alive,' and that my day hadn't come," she said.
Five Americans were reported injured in the mall attack, including a San Diego woman.
Among the dead were four Britons and a Canadian diplomat, and British
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We should prepare ourselves for
further bad news."
Kenyan security forces were being helped by Israeli and Western experts. The complex has several Israeli-owned shops.
newspapers suggested that a woman known as the White Widow, a British
Islamic convert whose husband was one of the attackers in the 2005
terror assault on the London transit system, was behind the attack in
The woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, is known to have spent time
in Kenya. The British Foreign Office said that it was unwilling to
speculate on her involvement.
The mall siege is the largest attack
in Kenya since an East African cell of al Qaeda bombed the United
States Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people.
last major attack by al Shabab outside Somalia was a double bombing in
Uganda targeting people watching the 2010 World Cup soccer final. Those
bombings killed 77 people.
Mary Murray of NBC News contributed to this report. Reuters and The Associated Press also contributed.