Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked rebel group, Al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the Saturday attack in which they used grenades and assault rifles and specifically targeted non-Muslims. The rebels said the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into Somalia and threatened more attacks.
“Most” of the hostages who have been holed up at an upscale shopping mall in Kenya’s capital after it was attacked by members of an Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group on Saturday have been freed, Kenya’s military says.
Kenya’s armed forces launched a “major” assault on the militants on Sunday night — about 30 hours after the Islamists stormed the Nairobi mall in an attack that left at least 68 dead and 175 injured. At around midnight local time, Kenya’s Defence Forces said it had rescued most hostages and had taken control of most of the mall, but declined to give numbers. Officials said four Kenyan military personnel were wounded in the operation.
“This will end tonight,” Kenya’s Disaster Operation Center earlier said.
On Sunday evening, the FBI and the U.S. intelligence committee was “aggressively” investigating whether or not the militants involved in the attack included Americans, a federal law enforcement source told Fox News
New York Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” that al-Shabab is “one of the only Al Qaeda affiliates which actually has actively recruited here in the United States.”
He called the Saturday mall attack a “well coordinated, well planned massacre.”
The announcement of the Kenya military assault came after Associated Press reporters said they heard a large explosion at the mall, followed by silence.
The Kenyan military had remained in a tense standoff with Islamic extremists throughout Sunday, as exchanges of gunfire between both sides were heard inside the mall, Reuters reports.
Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said in a national address Sunday that security forces had managed to isolate the “criminals” in one place inside the building, according to Reuters. Two helicopters were seen flying over the mall.
Many of the rescued hostages — mostly adults — were suffering from dehydration, Col. Cyrus Oguna, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press
There are between 50 to 200 hostages and most of them were hiding in various places inside the mall, Fox News confirms. They are not being held by the hostage-takers. There are between 10 to 15 militants currently inside the mall, with at least one being female.
Some of the people in hiding managed to escape before the military assault, according to Kenyan media reports.
Cecile Ndwiga said she had been hiding under a car in the basement parking garage.
“I called my husband to ask the soldiers to come and rescue me. Because I couldn’t just walk out anyhow. The shootout was all over here — left, right– just gun shots,” she said.
Police said that 49 people had been reported missing, according to a statement released by Kenya’s Red Cross.
Kenyatta said in his address that the attackers “shall not get away with their despicable and beastly acts.”
“We will punish the masterminds swiftly and indeed very painfully,” he added.
The White House said Sunday that President Barack Obama called Kenyatta to tell him the United States supports his country’s effort to bring al-Shabab to justice.
As of Sunday evening local time, Kenya’s Red Cross said 68 people were killed in the violence.