At least 39 people lost their lives during a shooting attack inside an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya early this morning.
According to reports, the gunmen were members of the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab.
Shooting continued hours after the initial assault as troops surrounded the Westgate mall and police and soldiers combed the building, hunting the attackers shop by shop. A police officer inside the building said the gunmen were barricaded inside a Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya’s biggest chains.
Reuters reports that the attack “appeared designed to achieve maximum global impact by targeting a place frequented by Westerners as well as Kenyans.”
France said two of its citizens were dead, the U.S. State Department said it had reports that American citizens had been injured, and Britain said its nationals had undoubtedly been affected.
Al Shabaab, which has links to al Qaeda and is battling Kenyan and other African peacekeepers in Somalia, had repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of the Horn of Africa country.
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, whose relatives were among those killed, said “the despicable perpetrators of this cowardly act (who) hoped to intimidate, divide and cause despondency among Kenyans and would like to (create) a closed, fearful and fractured society.”
Sources say this was the largest terror attack in Kenya since 1998. Authorities say it’s too early to draw further conclusions at this time.
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