On this third day of a deadly standoff at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where dozens of people have been killed and more have been wounded by gunmen claiming to be part of a militant Islamist group, Kenya’s police chief is saying that his forces are “closing in on the attackers.”
That claim comes in a message posted on David Kimaiyo’s official Twitter account.
Nairobi is 7 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast. As of the early afternoon there on Monday:
— Smoke could be seen rising from the mall.
— “Multiple large explosions” had been heard, The Associated Press says.
— The death toll was at least 68. At least another 175 people were said to be wounded.
— An unknown number of people were thought to still be inside the mall. Some might have been hostages. Others may have been barricaded inside shops or restaurants.
The group that has claimed responsibility is al-Shabab. It’s one of several Islamist militant organizations in Africa that, as NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston has reported, has been of increasing concern to the U.S. intelligence community.
“Al-Shabab has warned for two years that it will attack Kenya in retaliation for the country’s leading role in sending troops to Somalia in 2011 and effectively reducing the extremist group’s power in Somalia. Al-Shabab also claimed responsibility for the July 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed more than 70 people watching a World Cup final soccer match at a restaurant popular among foreigners. Ugandan troops also are fighting in the African force in Somalia.
“The group has staged ongoing major attacks within Somalia for years. … Al-Shabab and al-Qaida in February 2012 announced their alliance, with al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubair pledging allegiance to the global terror movement.”
NPR’s Gregory Warner, who is in Nairobi, said earlier Monday on Morning Edition that eyewitness accounts and closed circuit footage indicate that 10-15 attackers started by firing indiscriminately on people in cafes and restaurants on Saturday. Later, the attackers were “clearly very selective,” he added. They separated people by age, gender and whether they “could speak a Muslim prayer.” Witnesses say that some people who could convince the attackers that they were Muslims were allowed to go.
Among the news outlets live blogging the news:
We’ll post updates as more information comes in.
We followed the news from Nairobi over the weekend in posts headlined: