Kenyan government officials said Monday that the three-day attack operation on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall “will come to an end soon.”
Joseph Ole Lakethe, Kenya’s minister of interior, told Reuters that the attackers are all men, with some dressed as women of different nationalities. He also confirmed the death of two of the attackers.
A series of loud explosions and heavy gunfire was heard earlier at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall as black smoke billowed from the complex.
The Kenyan army earlier said it had managed to isolate the Islamist attackers, freeing the majority of the hostages.
A Kenyan security source said an assault against al-Qaeda-linked Somali gunmen inside the mall was underway.
The al-Shabaab rebels said on Saturday, via its now-closed Twitter account, that its fighters had carried out the attack in retaliation to Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia where African Union troops are battling the Islamists.
Militants stormed the Nairobi complex at midday on Saturday, killing at least 69 people and wounding around 200 people. Earlier reports suggested that at least 63 people are recorded missing. They are either being held hostage by Islamist militants inside the complex or have been killed during the three-day-siege.
In response to the attacks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the deadly mall siege in Kenya highlighted the gravity of the threat posed by Somali militants.
Kerry said he had spoken with the Somali foreign minister and ambassador to Washington earlier in the day about the mall attack.
“It represents the seriousness and the breadth of the challenge we face with ruthless and completely reckless terrorists,” Kerry told reporters in New York.