Thick smoke, loud explosions feature 3 day of Kenya mall siege
Thick smoke was witnessed billowing on Monday amid loud explosions at a popular shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on the third day of the tense standoff between security forces and Al-Shabaab militants.
Kenyan security forces on Monday stepped up their onslaught against Al-Qaida allied Al-Shabaab gunmen to end a siege on Nairobi's Westgate Mall and free hostages.
The final onslaught comes as Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said at least 69 people have been killed and 63 others remain unaccounted for as of 11:20 a.m. local time on Monday.
Those missing are believed to have been held hostage by the gunmen who on Saturday stormed into the popular shopping mall frequented by wealthy Kenyans and expatriates in Nairobi.
According to security sources, kidnappers are holding around 10 hostages at the mall in the continued standoff.
Sporadic gunfire and explosions were heard from the shopping mall as the standoff between the gunmen and security offices entered its third day.
The insurgents from Somalia have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Kenyan soldiers who launched a cross-border incursion in October 2011 into southern Somalia.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary in charge of Internal Security Joseph Ole Lenku said the gallant multi-agency security forces who continued their operations overnight have rescued a number of hostages from the mall.
"They have rescued a few more civilians held inside the mall, but a few still remain. We are unable to give precise figures at this stage," Lenku said.
"But we can confirm that our disciplined forces are up to the task and have been extremely careful to find the balance between neutralizing the attackers and getting as many people to safety as possible."
The cabinet secretary said the casualties include 59 killed and 175 injured, critical of some NGOs of giving a higher death toll, which he said, is incorrect owing to the possibility of double- counting.
"Some of the dead have already been released to their families for burial. We will in due course provide the number of foreigners killed in the attack," Lenku said.
To ensure the on-going security operation is concluded speedily, the interior cabinet secretary warned Kenyans against providing false information which would divert security agents from the core task of bringing the siege to an end.
Lenku assured Kenyans that security at all entry and departure points, including airports and the seaport, in the country has been significantly raised. "We urge all Kenyans and people of goodwill to remain calm and vigilant. We thank all Kenyans for their support during this difficult time," he added.
More than 30 hours after the Al-Shabaab terrorists stormed Nairobi's Westgate mall and fired at civilians, military authorities say the siege is close to an end.
Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna earlier told Xinhua that they had been able to rescue most of the people from the shopping, noting that no more than 10 hostages were left in the building.
Hour on hour, casualties of the Nairobi mall attack have been pouring into hospital as the Kenyan police are battling Al-Shabaab terrorists who carried out the weekend's carnage.