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Sunday 18 March 2018

Kenya declares end to mall siege

Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya (AP)
Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya (AP)
Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi (AP)
Kenya troops take their positions outside a shopping mall in Nairobi (AP)
Kenya security personnel move to their positions (AP)

Kenya's president has proclaimed victory over the terrorists who stormed a Nairobi mall, saying security forces had "ashamed and defeated our attackers" following a bloody four-day siege in which dozens of civilians were killed.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the dead included 61 civilians whose bodies have been recovered so far and six security forces, while some 175 were injured, including 62 who remain in hospital.

Three floors of the mall collapsed and several bodies were trapped in the rubble, said Mr Kenyatta. His office later said a terrorist's body was among those in the debris.

Five other extremists were killed by gunfire, he said in the televised address to the nation. He said 11 other suspects had been arrested - authorities had previously announced the arrest of seven at the airport and three elsewhere. "These cowards will meet justice as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are," Mr Kenyatta said.

Mr Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning starting on Wednesday.

At the Westgate mall there were no immediate signs of the Kenyan security forces closing their operation. Two Kenyan soldiers who had recently been inside the mall told the Associated Press shortly before the president spoke that the operation was effectively finished, but they said security forces were still combing the facility and had not definitively cleared all the rooms inside.

Kenyan forces had for two days said they were in the "final phase" of the operation, only to be battled back by the militants inside the building. Explosions rang from the Westgate mall in Nairobi throughout Tuesday, and the chatter of gunfire from inside the building could also be heard. Fresh smoke rose from the building in the afternoon.

The Kenyan Red Cross had previously said 62 people had been killed, and it seemed certain that the number of confirmed deaths would rise as security forces search the building. Nairobi's city morgue had already braced for the arrival of a large number of bodies of people killed, an official said.

Al-Shabab, whose name means The Youth in Arabic, said the mall attack was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighbouring Somalia. African Union forces pushed the al Qaida-affiliated group out of Somalia's capital in 2011. "You could have avoided all this and lived your lives with relative safety," the group Tweeted on Tuesday. "Remove your forces from our country and peace will come."

Mr Kenyatta said "initial reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack", but that "we cannot confirm the details at the moment". He said experts were working to try and determine the nationalities of the terrorists.

Press Association

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