Israeli special forces take on Nairobi terrorist group which may include Irishwoman
Is Irish terror suspect behind Nairobi attacks?
Smoke billows from roof as troops launch attack on terrorists
THE Israeli special forces, the Sayeret, have gone into the Nairobi shopping mall under siege by a terror group, which may include an Irishwoman.
Independent.ie has been informed that the terror group who have murdered and executed dozens of people, including women and children, may include up to three female terrorists.
The so-called ‘White Widow’, Samantha Lewthwaite (29), from Banbridge, Co Down, is on the run from the authorities in Kenya after she was previously linked to a terrorist cell that planned to attack a hotel or shopping mall in 2011.
British intelligence services are now investigating whether she is behind the Nairobi attack which has claimed the lives of 68 people so far.
This morning, an image emerged claiming to be from CCTV in the Nairobi mall.
It is claimed the image shows a female hostage taker - but it is not clear this is Irish mum-of-two Ms Lewthwaite.
The person in the image is sporting a balaclava and holding a handgun.
The shopping centre is owned by Israelis and renowned as a place where many Israelis hang out.
The Sayeret is an elite secret Israeli commando unit responsible for counter-terrorist and top secret intelligence gathering and hostage rescue missions
It is considered the most effective counterterrorism force in the world and is a highly secretive special-operations brigade.
It has famously been involved in operations in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and, perhaps most famously, Uganda, where its commandos freed 103 Jewish hostages after a 1976 hijacking.
In the last hour, a loud explosion sent thick smoke billowing from the mall. The blast was followed by other smaller detonations and volleys of gunfire but there was no indication of the fate of people whom the authorities say are being held by 10 to 15 Islamist gunmen who took the complex by storm on Saturday.
As troops ran into new positions, a security official at the scene said: "It is us who caused the explosion, we are trying to get in through the roof."
A plume of oily black smoke was still pouring from the building after 15 minutes.
It is thought that the terrorists are providing updates on the situation through Twitter, currently with the handle @hsm_pressoffice2.
Dozens of people are still being held hostage this morning, although the total number remains unclear. It is thought that up to 15 gunmen are holding the group in a supermarket at the shopping mall in Kenya’s capital.
Lewthwaite, the wife of July 7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, was previously suspected of plotting to attack venues popular with Westeners in Kenya and is currently in hiding.
She was accused of being part of a terrorist cell that allegedly involved a number of British nationals and has been linked with the terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Concerns over her possible involvement grew last night amid reports that one of the attackers in the mall is female.
Security sources said there was no intelligence to suggest that she is one of the attackers.
Kenyan government spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said there were reports of a white woman among the hostage takers and they were investigating the claims.
When asked if the woman was Lewthwaite, he replied: “Nothing is being ruled out.”
Kenya has had a long struggle against terrorism because of its border with Somalia, the stronghold of al-Shabaab, which is linked to Al Qaida.
The Nairobi attack, which started on Saturday, is the latest in a series that involves British citizens as victims or suspects.
As a result, Britain and Kenya’s security and intelligence services have strong links.
Leithwaite has evaded Kenyan authorities since she was accused of terrorist activities in 2011.