Kenyan security forces are claiming to have rescued most of the hostages being held by al-Shabab fighters in an upscale shopping mall in the capital Nairobi.
Armed men belonging to the Somali group had stormed the Westgate shopping centre a day earlier using grenades and assault rifles. The attack left at least 68 people dead and more than 150 wounded, according to the Red Cross.
Gunfire and an explosion were heard from the shopping centre after dark on Sunday, as security forces intensified efforts to end the standoff amid fears that the death toll could rise sharply following the discovery of more corpses by security men inside the building.
“Most of the hostages have been released, and the Kenya Defence Forces have taken control of most parts of the building,” said Col. Cyrus Oguna, a military spokesman, in remarks carried on television station KTN.
Al-Shabab spokesman Abu Omar talks to Al Jazeera about the siege
Kenya’s Disaster Operation Center said “this will end tonight. Our forces will prevail.” Security forces also said that most parts of the mall had also been secured.
Meanwhile, al-Shabab, which has claimed responsibility for the siege, said on its Twitter feed that the “Kenyan government shall be held responsible for any loss of life as a result of such an imprudent move. The call is yours!”
It said “Kenyan forces who’ve just attempted a roof landing must know that they are jeopardising the lives of hostages.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera later, Abu Omar, a spokesman, for the group, ruled out any negotiations over the hostages being held and said they would meet their fate.
Al-Shabab told Al Jazeera it carried out the attack in which they specifically targeted non-Muslims. Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including French, Britons, Indians, Canadians, Chinese and a renowned Ghanaian poet.
The Somali group is demanding that Kenya pull troops back from its neighbour, where al-Shabab is fighting against the government.
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