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Africa

Hostages 'still being held' as soldiers killed at Nairobi mall

© Photo: AFP

Video by Duncan WOODSIDE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-25

Three Kenyan soldiers wounded by gunfire at the Nairobi mall which came under siege by Islamist militants four days ago died on Tuesday, meaning at least 65 people have now been killed by the assailants, who say they are still holding hostages.

Three Kenyan soldiers wounded in fierce gun battles in an ongoing siege of an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall died on Tuesday, the army said.

"Eleven KDF (Kenya Defence Force) soldiers sustained injuries... regrettably, three of them succumbed to their injuries," army spokesman Cyrus Oguna said in a statement. The deaths take the toll in the attack to at least 65 people.

Fresh gunfire was heard Tuesday morning at the Nairobi shopping mall that was first besieged by Islamist militants four days ago, despite earlier claims by Kenyan government officials that they had retaken control of the upscale complex.

A Twitter user purporting to represent the al Shabaab Islamist militant group which staged the attack said its militants were still holding out in the shopping centre, and that hostages they held in the Westgate mall in Nairobi were still alive.

“There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the Mujahideen (fighters) are still holding their ground #Westgate,” the Twitter feed @HSM_PR – which was launched on Tuesday morning but has yet to be verified – said. “The hostages who were being held by the Mujahideen inside #Westgate are still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive.”

Al Shabaab regularly changes its Twitter handle as its accounts are frequently suspended, but it usually informs journalists and others of the change by email or other means.

TWEETING FROM THE GROUND

FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent said from Nairobi that Kenyan security forces were still massing around all the entrances to the shopping centre. “The final push to try to eradicate the militants from the inside has been proving extremely complex and long drawn out.”

Security sources said Kenyan forces were still hunting down “one or two” militants inside, after securing the building one floor at a time. Part of the mall was still burning, after the militants allegedly lit mattresses on fire on Monday.

The deadly siege began on Saturday when Sudanese al Shaabab Islamist militants stormed the Westgate mall from several entry points simultaneously. The attack has claimed the lives of at least 62 people according to the Red Cross. Early on Tuesday, a new body was seen being carried out, witnesses said.

Officials also claimed late on Monday that all of the hostages had been freed, but a security expert told the Associated Press that a handful of hostages were still bound to be inside.

He added that the Islamist attackers were “a multinational collection from all over the world.” Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said on US television on Monday night that the militants included “two or three Americans” and “one Brit.”

President Barack Obama on Monday called the attack in a Nairobi mall a “terrible outrage” and said the United States was providing all the cooperation it could to Kenya.

“We stand with them against this terrible outrage that occurred,” Obama, whose father was a Kenyan national, said at a meeting at the United Nations.

Date created : 2013-09-24

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