Al-Shabaab Attacks Kenyan Shopping Mall and Leave 68 Dead
Shabaab militant attackers held civilians hostage in Westgate Shopping Mall since Sunday as the Kenya Defense Forces tries to save the remaining 10 hostages. Security forces have already saved more than 1,000 since the violence started on Saturday.
The assault on Westgate was the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 Qaeda truck bombing of the American Embassy in Nairobi that killed more than 200 people.
The number of bystanders remaining in the building was not as clear, though the Kenya Red Cross, citing the police as its source, said Sunday that 49 people were unaccounted for, raising the prospect of a significantly higher death toll before the crisis ends.
Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked militant group based in Somalia with ties to Nairobi’s Eastleigh district and whose most recent attack of this scale came July 2010 in Uganda’s capital, claimed responsibility for the carnage and vowed not to negotiate with Kenyan authorities. It claimed that “all Muslims” were escorted from the mall before the attack, suggesting its targets were people who didn’t believe in their extreme form of Islam.
“The Mujahideen are still strong inside #Westgate Mall and still holding their ground,” the group said late Saturday via Twitter. “All praise is due to Allah!”
When asked by Al Jazeera why they attacked Westgate Mall, a spokesperson for Al-Shabaab said,
“The place we attacked is Westgate shopping mall. It is a place where tourists from across the world come to shop, where diplomats gather. It is a place where Kenya’s decision-makers go to relax and enjoy themselves. Westgate is a place where there are Jewish and American shops. So we have to attack them.”