Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared three days of mourning for victims of the attack on a Nairobi mall by Islamist militants, saying the siege was over.
In a nationally televised speech, Kenyatta said 61 civilians and six soldiers died in the attack. He said five militants were killed and that Kenyan authorities have 11 suspects in custody. Kenya’s losses were “immense,” he said, but justice has prevailed.
“Our head is bloodied but unbowed. The criminals found us unafraid as we shall ever be,” Kenyatta said. “We cannot be conquered.”
Kenyatta said three floors of the mall have collapsed and several bodies, including those of possible suspects, remain trapped in the rubble. He could not confirm reports that a British person and several Americans were among the attackers, he said.
Earlier, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told the PBS Newshour that two or three Americans of Somali or Arab origin and a British national took part in the attack.
Kenyan police and military forces have spent days attempting to clear the mall of any remaining militants. Sporadic gunfire and explosions could be heard from inside the building throughout daylight hours in Nairobi Tuesday.
The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, said earlier that its fighters were still holding hostages in the mall.
Loi Awat was at a bank in the mall when the chaos erupted on Saturday. In an interview with VOA, Awat said she and other bank patrons crouched on the floor for what they initially thought was a robbery.
“The shooting, it was loud because they were shooting for a while,” she said.”At some point, they threw a grenade. You feel the air; I don’t know, the air just moves when it is a grenade. You can tell the difference when it is a gun and a grenade. So, they shot for some time.”
After spending about four hours in the bank, Awat and other bank patrons crawled to safety.
U.S. President Barack Obama commented on the attack during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday. He said the Kenya siege and recent attacks in Pakistan and Iraq show that while al-Qaida may have splintered into regional networks and militias, it still poses a serious threat across the globe.
On Twitter, al-Shabab called again on Tuesday for Kenya remove its forces from Somalia in exchange for peace at home. Kenya has rejected that demand.
Kenyan forces entered neighboring Somalia two years ago to help rout al-Shabab, which has been fighting to turn Somalia into a conservative Islamic state. Al-Shabab militants often cross the border to stage attacks in Kenya.
The dead include nationals from Britain, Canada, China, France, Ghana, India and South Korea. VOA