Kenyan security agencies 'control all floors', death toll now 69 - Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the government forces battling the terrorists holed up in the Westgate Shopping Mall in the capital city of Nairobi on Monday killed two of the attackers who stormed the mall, in addition to gaining control of all the four floors of the building.
'We are in charge of all the floors,' the local media Monday quoted the interior minister to have said.
He said a few more hostages have been rescued but a few still remain, indicating that the military operation at the mall continues.
'There are very few hostages left,' the Daily Nation newspaper quoted the minister as saying, without giving any number.
Ten members of the security forces involved in the mall operation have been injured
The minister spoke as three explosions were heard from the mall, followed by sporadic gunshots.
In the meantime, while the minister has put the death toll from the terrorist attack at the mall at 62, the Kenya Red Cross said 69 have died and the same number of people are missing. Some 175 people are injured.
The standoff that started on Saturday, when gunmen burst into the mall and shot many people dead, continued Monday.
On Monday, heavy gunfire rang out as early as 6.30 am local time, after a largely quiet night. The heavy gunfire was followed by an explosion, and has continued intermittently.
Among those who died in the attack were two relatives of President Uhuru Kenyatta (his nephew and his fiancee), as well as Ghanaian academic, poet and politician Kofi Awoonor, 78.
“Many of us have lost loved ones. Let us mourn them all as one nation and keep them always in remembrance and prayer,” PANA quoted President Kenyatta as saying in an address to the nation.
Though Kenyan security agencies were said to be carrying out the rescue operation with the backing of Israeli and other foreign forces, President Kenyatta said while he had indeed received offers of assistance from friendly countries, 'for the time being, however, this remains an operation of the Kenyan security agencies.”
Among those offering assistance to Kenya is Nigeria, which said in a presidency statement: 'President (Goodluck) Jonathan...assures that in keeping with the spirit of recent agreements for enhanced bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and Kenya, the Federal Government will give all possible support and assistance to Kenya in its efforts to contain the scourge of terrorism and avoid a recurrence of (Saturday's) heinous attack on Nairobi.'
Kenyans have also heeded the call to show solidarity at this difficult period, with many donating blood and money. A Kenyan telecoms operator's appeal for public contributions to assist those affected has fetched 25, 488,388 shillings (about US$286,560) as at Monday afternoon.
The Somalia-based Islamic militant group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, saying it was in retaliation for Kenya's military operation to flush out terrorists from Somalia.
The attack on Westgate is being described as the deadliest terrorist attack in the East African nation since the 1998 attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi that left over 200 dead.
It has attracted widespread condemnations from around the world, including the UN, Nigeria, US and Britain.