Siege at Nairobi mall over, Kenyan president says
Five Islamists shot dead in Nairobi and 11 held; three days of national mourning declared
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta , flanked by members of his cabinet, addresses the nation on the Westgate shopping mall attack. Photograph: Presidential Strategic Communications Unit/Handout via Reuters
A police officer walks towards the edge of a security perimeter put into place a distance from the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, in the early hours of the morning. Photograph: Reuters
Kenya defence forces soldiers take their position at the Westgate shopping centre, on the fourth day since militants stormed into the mall, in Nairobi. Photograph: Noor Khamis /Reuters
Residents look at the military rescue operation at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi. Photograph: Karel Prinsloo/Reuters
A Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) armoured military vehicle drives to the Westgate shopping centre after an exchange of gunfire inside the mall today. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya /Reuters
The four-day siege at Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall is over, the country’s president declared to night in a strongly worded statement of defiance against the terrorist threat to the east African nation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said today that his forces had “defeated” Islamists from Somalia’s al Shabaab, had shot five of them dead and detained 11 others suspected of killing 67 people after storming a Nairobi shopping mall.
It remained unclear after Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation on television whether the four-day security operation at the upmarket Westgate centre was completely over, or whether any militants were still at large or hostages unaccounted for.
“We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” Mr Kenyatta said, adding that bodies were still trapped under rubble following the collapse of part of the building late in the operation. He declared three days of national mourning.
A fire began on Monday which officials said was started by the gunmen. Sixty-one civilians and six security personnel had been confirmed killed in the four days of bloodshed, Kenyatta said. Five of the attackers were shot dead and 11 suspects were in custody: “Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed,” he said.
The president added that he could not confirm intelligence reports that a British woman and two or three Americans might be involved. Forensic scientists were involved in trying to identify the nationalities of the “terrorists”, he said.
“Towards the tail end of the operation, three floors of the Westgate mall collapsed and there are several bodies trapped in the rubble including the terrorists,” he added.
The death toll had previously been put by officials at 62. “These cowards will meet justice as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are,” said the president, who thanked other leaders for support and used his address to both praise the response of the Kenyan people and call for national unity, six months after his election was marked by ethnic tensions.
Mr Kenyatta had rejected the militants’ demands that he pull Kenyan troops out of its northern neighbour. As part of an African peacekeeping force in Somalia, Kenyan forces have pushed al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab on to the defensive over the past two years.
Kenyan officials have announced the imminent end of the siege for the past three days - something al Shabaab spokesmen have mocked in commentaries and in postings on social media.
Some hours before Kenyatta spoke, the group said its militants were still holding out with hostages and that there were “countless dead bodies” still inside the complex. “There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the Mujahideen are still holding their ground #Westgate,” the group said on its Twitter feed. “The hostages who were being held by the Mujahideen inside #Westgate are still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive.”