Kenya mall siege 'over' but death toll unclear
Updated: 2013-09-25 11:01
Kenya Defence Forces soldiers comb the rooftop of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi September 24, 2013. Kenya's president said on Tuesday that his forces had "defeated" Islamists from Somalia's al Shabaab, had shot five of them dead and detained 11 others suspected of killing 67 people after storming the Nairobi shopping mall. [Photo/Agencies]
NAIROBI - As Kenya began three days of mourning on Wednesday for at least 67 people killed in the siege of a Nairobi mall, it was unclear how many more hostages may have died with the Somali Islamist attackers buried in the rubble.
Declaring final victory over the al-Qaida-linked gunmen from al Shabaab who stormed the Westgate shopping centre on Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that three floors in a part of the mall had collapsed near the end of the operation, leaving an unknown number of bodies under steel and concrete.
It was not clear what caused the structure to come down.
Five militants had been shot dead, Kenyatta said, and six security personnel died in the four days of fighting.
Sixty-one civilians had so far been confirmed dead, Kenyatta added. Kenyan officials declined to say how many of 63 people whom the Red Cross had earlier classed as unaccounted for may also have died in a showdown with guerrillas, who had threatened to kill their hostages and go down fighting.
Eleven people suspected of involvement with the well-planned and executed assault were in custody, the Kenyan president added. But he did not say how many, if any, were gunmen taken alive and how many may have been people arrested elsewhere.
It was also unclear whether intelligence reports of American or British gunmen would be confirmed. Al Shabaab denied that any women took part, after British sources said the fugitive widow of one of the 2005 London suicide bombers might have some role.
The shattered mall, an imposing, Israeli-built symbol of a new prosperity for some in Africa while many remain mired in poverty, lay largely silent overnight, after days of gunfire, explosions and bloodshed.
"The operation is now over," Kenyatta told Kenyans in a televised address. "We have ashamed and defeated our attackers."
He announced three days of national mourning.