Kenya shopping mall attack latest: Military takes control of shopping centre and says all hostages freed

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Nairobi

Four deafening explosions at lunchtime on Monday marked what was the beginning of the end of Kenya’s worst terror attack since the 1990s.

By this morning, Kenyan security forces had taken control of the Nairobi shopping mall where Islamist fighters had killed at least 62 people, and police were doing a final sweep of the building after all remaining hostages had been freed.

A burst of gunfire from inside the Westgate mall  had broke the overnight silence as a military helicopter circled above.

Late on Monday security forces said that most of the hostages had been released, but it remained unclear whether all of the attackers had been killed or detained. Hurried ranks of commandos could be seen charging into the upmarket shopping mall that has been the scene of a murderous stand-off with Kenyan authorities since it was stormed by Islamic militants on Saturday afternoon.

As troops moved into the four-storey building and helicopters circled overhead, a column of black smoke began to rise from the rooftop.

Inside the mall fighters loyal to the Somali Islamist militia al-Shabaab had barricaded themselves in. They were holding an estimated 30 hostages and had lit fires to confuse the troops.

One member of the Kenyan force said that at least two of the terrorists died in the ground-floor supermarket where much of the fighting has been concentrated. “They just blew themselves up,” the soldier said by phone from inside the security cordon.

The day had begun with exchanges of fire and an abortive attempt by Kenyan forces, assisted by Israeli units, to seize back control of the battered shopping centre.

The lunchtime blasts swelled the crowds of onlookers. By mid-afternoon there was the bizarre spectacle of Kenyan police launching tear gas at onlookers and firing warning rounds into the air while at the same time only 100 metres away soldiers were exchanging fire with the militants in the mall.

As acrid yellow clouds of gas swirled around the hillside overlooking the disaster scene, heavy-calibre weapons could be heard from the direction of Westgate and a handful of young Kenyans threw stones at the police. The frayed tempers were evidence of a bloody stand-off that has lasted longer than anyone had predicted. The death toll from the attack which had climbed to 69 was revised back down to 62 late in the day but the Kenyan Red Cross said that 63 people were missing.

However, the number of UK citizens confirmed killed has continued to climb. Six Britons are now known to have died but that figure may rise further, the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said.

There were also reports that a “white woman” was among the attackers killed on Monday but there was no official confirmation. Several survivors of Saturday’s killing spree recalled seeing a “European-looking woman” among the heavily armed militants who were separating Muslims from non-Muslims and killing scores of weekend shoppers.

This has fuelled speculation that the Briton Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the “White Widow”, and previously married to one of the London 7/7 bombers, was among the attackers.

A stream of confident predictions have flowed from Kenyan authorities but few have been borne out by events. On Monday night the Inspector General of the Kenyan police, David Kimaiyo, said two of the militants had been killed and “several others injured”.

“Taken control of all the floors,” he later tweeted. “We’re not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them.”

Kenya’s Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the evacuation of hostages “has gone very, very well” and that Kenyan officials are “very certain” that there are few if any hostages left in the building.

"Our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind. We believe all hostages have been released," Mr Ole Lenku said on Twitter.

Security sources suggested that this confidence was premature. So far the militants have proven better prepared and have succeeded in repelling a number of attacks.

Their durability has led security services to investigate the possibility that they may have had support from inside the mall – possibly a cache of arms or explosives deposited prior to the attack.

“They seem to have an arsenal with them,” said an official. “When these guys lit the fires it stopped us and we weren’t able to proceed.”

Adding to the sense that the attackers had received outside assistance, Kenya’s interior ministry reported that it had arrested “individuals” at the airport.

There was no official confirmation of the fate of the hostages, with Kenyan police earlier revising downward their estimate of the number being held from 30 to 10. Military planners had been using CCTV pictures of the interior of the complex to try to calculate both the numbers of terrorists as well as the position of hostages and members of the public still in hiding.

At the Oshwal centre, a Kenyan-Indian community centre and Jain temple, which has been offering emergency assistance to survivors as well as basic facilities for families awaiting news, there were only two wounded Kenyan soldiers on Monday.

The pillars of the underground car park, where volunteers, family and reporters have sheltered during the regular exchanges of fire nearby, have been plastered with pictures of the missing.

Among them was the smiling photograph printed on black and white paper of Ravi Ramrattan, a young man from the Caribbean, who was believed to be an alumnus of the London School of Economics. His body was among those identified in the Nakumatt supermarket.

He had initially maintained contact with friends on the outside through text messages and phone calls. One of his friends, who had volunteered to counsel survivors as he kept vigil for Mr Ramrattan, said that, trapped inside, he had kept asking when the rescue operation would reach him. When he stopped replying to messages it had been hoped that his phone’s battery was exhausted. It is not known exactly how and when he died.

Meanwhile, there was the suggestion the attackers were taking orders from Somalia. A spokesman from al-Shabaab in Somalia, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, restated the group’s claim to the attack. In an audio file posted on a website, he said the militants had been ordered to “take punitive action against the hostages” if security forces tried to storm their way in.

Further reading:

The victims came from around the world. So did their killers
Was wife of 7/7 bomber among attackers?
Kenyans are more united in tragedy’s aftermath
The victims: The architect and his pregnant wife
Video: Amateur footage from Kenya shopping mall attack
Ian Birrell: How to fight al-Shabaab

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music

Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

SENCO

£21000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: SENCO - Benfleet - J...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you looking to work in Edu...

Nursery Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunity for a nursery manage...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker