Wednesday 18 October 2017

Kenya shopping mall attack: Westgate centre military assault in 'final stages' with three terrorists killed and 'four arrested'

'Very few' hostages remain in the building and a police officer says there are only six or seven militants still fighting, as the Kenyan Red Cross revise official death toll down to 62

A COLUMN of black smoke rose from the roof of Nairobi's Westgate mall after a series of massive blasts rocked the scene of a three-day hostage siege in the Kenyan capital.

While the battle to secure the shopping centre is ongoing, the Kenyan authorities said three terrorists have now been killed and CNN reported four had been arrested.

A security official at the scene said the military were now tackling just six or seven militants, and Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku has said his forces are “in control of all floors” of the five-storey mall.

The Kenyan Defence Forces reported that 11 of its soldiers had been injured in today's operation, and said 10 more bodies had been retrieved from the building in the past 24 hours.

In posts on Twitter, the authorities also said that 10 people have been arrested in relation to the Westgate incident, with some of those expected to be at airports and borders across the country which have stepped up security efforts to find anyone involved.

Shortly after midday local time today Kenyan soldiers in full combat gear flooded the streets around the upmarket shopping centre which has been occupied by the Islamist militants since Saturday lunchtime.

A policeman and photographers take cover after hearing gun shots near the Westgate shopping centre
A policeman and photographers take cover after hearing gun shots near the Westgate shopping centre
People take cover behind a car along a road during heavy gunfire at Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
Kenyan soldiers walk towards the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi September 23, 2013.
A Kenya Defence Forces soldier carrying a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) walks past an armoured military vehicle in front of the Westgate shopping centre after an exchange of gunfire
A soldier on horseback near the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
Armed police from the General Service Unit take cover behind a wall during a bout of gunfire, outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi,
Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Kenya Monday Sept. 23 2013
A Kenyan soldier walks out of the main gate of Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi
Trucks of soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces arrive outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya
A woman wounded in the terrorist attack in Nairobi
A man takes a picture of the ongoing rescue operation at Westgate Shopping Centre in the Nairobi
Residents look at the ongoing rescue operation at the Westgate Shopping Centre in the capital of Nairobi
Security officers take cover behind a wall as they wait for developments near Westgate Shopping Centre during the third day of the stand-off
Security officers walk past members of the media stationed on the edge of a security perimeter
Security officers walk past members of the media stationed on the edge of a security perimeter
Kenyan policemen search a man as he walks past the Westgate Shopping Centre
Kenyan policemen gather for a briefing
Kenya Securiy personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after firing started inside the mall
Kenya Security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after firing started
Samantha Lewthwaite with Jermaine Lindsay, one of the 7/7 bombers in London
Kenya security personnel outside the Westgate Mall
Kenyan policemen keep vigil near the Westgate Shopping Centre

After four large blasts rocked the mall, Mr Lenku then said that two of the militants died from “our morning activities”.

Repeated attempts to rescue the remaining hostages are expected to go on into the night, despite officials saying there are “very few left” and that the battle was in its closing stages.

It was unclear at the time whether the explosions were the work of militants holed up inside the mall or whether they came from security services trying to blast their way in. One eye witness reported seeing Kenyan forces firing rocket propelled grenades into Westgate.

Large crowds of curious onlookers who have gathered at dawn each day to watch the drama unfold were driven back violently by Kenyan police who fired warning shots into the air and used volleys of tear gas. As gunshots rang out around the mall during the military operation, panicked crowds scattered and a handful of angry stone throwers confronted police just a few streets away.

Authorities called this morning's efforts a “final assault”, and following the most intense stage of the operation yet the Kenyan Police's official Twitter feed reported it had made gains, saying: “Thumbs up to our multi-agency team, we have just managed to rescue some hostages. We're increasingly gaining advantage of the attackers.”

- Daniel Howden and Adam Withnall, Independent.co.uk

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