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At least 39 dead as al-Qaida gunmen attack Kenya mall

By Jason Straziuso

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:20 a.m. HST, Sep 22, 2013

NAIROBI, Kenya >> Terrified shoppers huddled in back hallways and prayed they would not be found by the Islamic extremist gunmen lobbing grenades and firing assault rifles inside Nairobi's top mall Saturday. When the coast was thought to be clear, crying mothers clutching small children and blood-splattered men sprinted out of the four-story mall.

At least 39 people were killed and more than 150 wounded in the assault, Kenya's president announced on national TV, while disclosing that his close family members were among the dead.

Foreigners were among the casualties. France's president said that two French women were killed, and there were reports of American citizens injured, but the U.S. State Department said it had no further details.

Early Sunday morning (Saturday in Hawaii), 12 hours after the attack began, gunmen remained holed up inside the mall with an unknown number of hostages. President Uhuru Kenyatta called the security operation under way "delicate" and said a top priority was to safeguard hostages.

As the attack unfolded, the al-Qaida-linked gunmen asked the victims they had cornered if they were Muslim: If the answer was yes, several witnesses said, those people were free to go. The non-Muslims were not.

Somalia's Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility and said the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into Somalia. The rebels threatened more attacks.

Al-Shabab said on its Twitter feed that Kenyan security officials were trying to open negotiations. "There will be no negotiations whatsoever," al-Shabab tweeted.

As night fell in Kenya's capital, two contingents of army special forces troops moved inside the mall.

Police and military surrounded the huge shopping complex as helicopters buzzed overhead. An Associated Press reporter said he saw a wounded Kenyan soldier put into an ambulance at nightfall, an indication, perhaps, of a continuing shoot-out inside.

Witnesses said at least five gunmen -- including at least one woman -- first attacked an outdoor cafe at Nairobi's Westgate Mall, a shiny, new shopping center that hosts Nike, Adidas and Bose stores. The mall's ownership is Israeli, and security experts have long said the structure made an attractive terrorist target.

The attack began shortly after noon with bursts of gunfire and grenades. Shoppers -- expatriates and rich Kenyans -- fled in any direction that might be safe: into back corners of stores, back service hallways and bank vaults. Over the next several hours, pockets of people poured out of the mall as undercover police moved in. Some of the wounded were moved out in shopping carts.

"We started by hearing gunshots downstairs and outside. Later we heard them come inside. We took cover. Then we saw two gunmen wearing black turbans. I saw them shoot," said Patrick Kuria, an employee at Artcaffe, the restaurant with shady outdoor seating.

Frank Mugungu, an off-duty army sergeant major, said he saw four male attackers and one female attacker. "One was Somali," he said, but the others were black, suggesting that they could have been Kenyan or another nationality.

Al-Shabab, on its Twitter feed, said that it has many times warned Kenya's government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia "would have severe consequences." The group claimed that its gunmen had killed 100 people, but its assertions are often exaggerated.

"The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders," al-Shabab said. Another tweet said: "For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it's time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land #Westgate."

Al-Shabab threatened in late 2011 to unleash a large-scale attack in Nairobi. Kenya has seen a regular spate of grenade attacks since then but never such a large terrorist assault.

Nairobi's mortuary superintendent, Sammy Nyongesa Jacob, said Africans, Asians and Caucasians were among the bodies brought to the mortuary.

The U.S. State Department condemned "this senseless act of violence that has resulted in death and injury for many innocent men, women, and children."

The U.S. embassy said it was in contact with local authorities and offered assistance. Some British security personnel assisted in the response.

The gunmen told hostages that non-Muslims would be targeted, said Elijah Kamau, who was at the mall at the time of the midday attack.

"The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted," he said.

Jay Patel, who sought cover on an upper floor in the mall when shooting began, said that when he looked out of a window onto the upper parking deck of the mall he saw the gunmen with a group of people. Patel said that as the attackers were talking, some of the people stood up and left and the others were shot.

The attack was carried out by terrorists, said police chief Benson Kibue. He did not specify a group. He said it was likely that no more than 10 attackers were involved.

Somalia's president -- the leader of a country familiar with terrorist attacks -- said his country knows "only too well the human costs of violence like this" as he extended prayers to those in Kenya.

"These heartless acts against defenseless civilians, including innocent children, are beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Kenya in its time of grief for these lives lost and the many injured," President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.

The gunmen carried AK-47s and wore vests with hand grenades on them, said Manish Turohit, 18, who hid in a parking garage for two hours.

"They just came in and threw a grenade. We were running and they opened fire. They were shouting and firing," he said after marching out of the mall in a line of 15 people who all held their hands in the air.

A local hospital was overwhelmed with the number of wounded being brought in hours after the attack, so they had to divert them to a second facility. Dozens of people were wounded. Officials said Kenyans turned out in droves to donate blood.

The United Nations secretary-general's office said that Ban Ki-moon has spoken with President Uhuru Kenyatta and expressed his concern. British Prime Minister David Cameron also called Kenyatta and offered assistance.

Kenyan authorities said they have thwarted other large-scale attacks targeting public spaces. Kenyan police said in September 2012 they disrupted a major terrorist attack in its final stages of planning, arresting two people with explosive devices and a cache of weapons and ammunition.

Anti-terror Police Unit boss Boniface Mwaniki said vests found were similar to those used in attacks that killed 76 people in Uganda who gathered to watch the soccer World Cup finals on TV in July 2010. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for those bombings, saying the attack was in retaliation for Uganda's participation in the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia.


Associated Press reporters Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya, Carley Petesch in Johannesburg and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.

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allie wrote:
scary but then Muslims have a cursed religious set of beliefs. In the end, there is no Allah other than Allah Moana. What a tragedy to die for a desert myth.
on September 21,2013 | 10:23AM
Anonymous wrote:
hopefully the weapons were not supplied by obama and his team...
on September 21,2013 | 11:38AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
Obama need to return to the land of his birth and campaign for gun-control laws. Or does Kenya already have such laws perhaps?
on September 21,2013 | 01:10PM
aomohoa wrote:
Is that you Donald Trump??
on September 21,2013 | 03:31PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Your comment says all anyone needs to know about you Ken, go back to where YOU came from.
on September 21,2013 | 05:44PM
aomohoa wrote:
These are extremists. Don't compare good Muslims people. You are very judgmental when it comes to other people and other religions. I know you are arrogant, and narcissistic but I didn't know you were so all knowing What day in December are you living Oahu???
on September 21,2013 | 12:22PM
SteveToo wrote:
Islam, the religion of peace! LOL
on September 21,2013 | 10:53AM
aomohoa wrote:
Many people have been murdered in the name of Christianity so don't be too judgmental.
on September 21,2013 | 12:23PM
john_zee wrote:
aomohoa - only muslims kill like this. and don't tell me about the Crusades or anything else that happened a thousand years ago.
on September 21,2013 | 03:04PM
aomohoa wrote:
Is that you allie?
on September 21,2013 | 03:32PM
Mythman wrote:
Err, the Crusades were not "a thousand years ago".
on September 21,2013 | 04:20PM
john_zee wrote:
ok, but over 900 years ago.........close enough.........I rounded up. these muslims never let anything go. the sunni shia rift is what ~1300 years ago. these people live in a different century
on September 21,2013 | 04:26PM
john_zee wrote:
so mythman, should I assume you support these muslims murdering innocent people? nice person you are.
on September 21,2013 | 04:27PM
aomohoa wrote:
That is a ridiculous comment and I don't agree with mythman most of the time.
on September 21,2013 | 07:36PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
What ... Judgmental? When's the last time a christian ran around a crowded shopping mall shooting innocent people?
on September 21,2013 | 05:48PM
st1d wrote:
obama destroyed the al quaida. there is no terrorism. obama in the highest.
on September 21,2013 | 11:08AM
Mythman wrote:
All Praise to Barry the Magnificent...
on September 21,2013 | 04:20PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Oh how I wish you white tea party repubs would move back to where ever you came from, Hawaii is not for you. Between you and Ken, I don't know which of you is worse, Go home!
on September 21,2013 | 05:51PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
on September 21,2013 | 10:34PM
csdhawaii wrote:
Some commenters are so ridiculous. All religions save maybe Buddhism have blood on their hands, not just Islam. Blaming all Muslims for terrorists attacks carried out under their religion is like blaming all Christians for the hateful acts of the Westboro Baptist church. Every religion has extremists, every religion has individuals who have their own interpretations of their holy books and promote violence, hate and intolerance. Although I think religion is false, I don't blame the majority for the act of the minority.
on September 21,2013 | 12:08PM
aomohoa wrote:
Oh so true.
on September 21,2013 | 12:24PM
Poplm wrote:
Obama wants to support these people in Syria.
on September 21,2013 | 01:07PM
aomohoa wrote:
The dilemma is who is the real threat in Syria. Is there a good side, or just bad and worse.
on September 21,2013 | 03:34PM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
Buddhists also have plenty of blood on their hands. This year, for example, they have murdered lots of Muslims in the Buddhist-majority Burma (Myanmar).
on September 21,2013 | 01:08PM
primowarrior wrote:
The majority of Buddhists are peaceful people, but this shows that even within a peaceful religion like Buddhism, extremism exists. Same with Islam. I'm thankful that in Hawaii, we haven't had to experience this kind of religious violence from our religious communities, who seem to be able to co-exist in peace with each other.
on September 21,2013 | 01:44PM
aomohoa wrote:
Mahalo for not being radical.
on September 21,2013 | 03:35PM
Mythman wrote:
Ah, the wonderful Myanmar, where our lovely meth used to come from in un-inspected shipping containers.
on September 21,2013 | 04:22PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Non-Hawaiian Ken Conklin doesn't have blood on his hands, but he considers Hawaiians as his #1 enemy.
on September 21,2013 | 04:37PM
aomohoa wrote:
I don't recall him saying nasty things like allie does.
on September 21,2013 | 07:38PM
hanalei395 wrote:
It's what he says and does OFF this message board.
on September 21,2013 | 08:07PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
on September 21,2013 | 10:37PM
john_zee wrote:
well do the majority of muslims condemn these people? no, the silence is deafening. on the other hand the majority of Christians condemn westboro, think they're nuts and protest against them.
on September 21,2013 | 04:58PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
It's true that many people have been killed in the name of religion .... but not like this. What these muslims are doing and the methods they employ are similar to what Hitler did to the jews. Systematic extermination of anyone who does not share their religion and beliefs.
on September 21,2013 | 05:55PM
iwanaknow wrote:
These acts embolden other groups..........sad
on September 21,2013 | 12:28PM
Mythman wrote:
Inspire other groups - yep, be sure to see some mass mall killings around the Holiday Season on home ground.
on September 21,2013 | 04:23PM
kaupena wrote:
So what happened to the terrorists? Were they killed or did they escape.
on September 21,2013 | 01:08PM
UhhDuhh wrote:
It says what happened to them in the article.
on September 21,2013 | 01:26PM
aomohoa wrote:
Quote please, I did not see the outcome anywhere in the article. Results from the past yes.
on September 21,2013 | 03:39PM
inverse wrote:
Doesnt matter, they get killed, they are captured, tried and executed or 'interrogated' nothing changes. Another muslim extremists group throughout the world will continue on to attack and kill non muslims, including Americans. These terrorsits are true beleivers and welcome death while killing Americans and others. Another reason why Obama bombing or just talking about bombing Syria is a terrible mistake and does nothing to help the situation.
on September 21,2013 | 04:24PM
primowarrior wrote:
It is always a tragedy when innocent people die, regardless of who commits those heinous acts. I can only imagine the grief that the families of those who died are going through now, and the fear that the hostages must be feeling. Sad.
on September 21,2013 | 01:12PM
aomohoa wrote:
Common sense and Aloha:)
on September 21,2013 | 03:36PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Are you guys kidding??? What? no mass shootings in the US to tabloidize? This couldn't be about massive numbers of people being victimized. It's happening every day in all kinds of Third World countries minute by minute, and by entire city blocks in Syria. This story is obviously the result of Alabama, Texas A&M and Oregon not being challeged this weekend.
on September 21,2013 | 03:47PM
Mythman wrote:
And pray tell, critical one, how did these football teams become of such importance to our life? Hmm, we had a war called The Civil War, among other things, and after it, football teams took up the energy of young men which otherwise was focused in that war........
on September 21,2013 | 04:25PM
CriticalReader wrote:
How did those football teams become of such importance? Why, because of the AP Poll Rankings, of course. That, and shiny uniforms, day-to-day possibilities that future millionaires might do something immature or stupid to lose a chance at those millions, and DEFINITELY the potential for sexual misconduct. Also, potential season ending or crippling injuries are a lure (especially because they can impact millionaire status). And, maybe a referee will make a mistake caught on video. That's always a masses pleaser. Don't even have to talk about the people who bet the kids' college money on these things.
on September 21,2013 | 04:49PM
HD36 wrote:
This is the same group they call freedom fighters in Syria.
on September 21,2013 | 07:59PM
Carang_da_buggahz wrote:
Another shining example from the Religion of "Love and Peace". Where are all the supposed Islamic Moderates? I keep hearing that there is such a thing yet I never hear any outcry from this faction. Do they even exist? Apparently not.
on September 21,2013 | 08:48PM
dlum003 wrote:
those damne d cowards
on September 21,2013 | 10:12PM
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