Monday, September 23, 2013

Reports: Kenyan Forces Secure #Westgate Mall

It's hard to know what's going on. Up-to-date information is sketchy, and I'm linking this stuff below provisionally. I'll be checking around for more information, especially on the identities of the assailants.

Until then, a number of reports are claiming the siege has come to an end and security forces have the mall under control.

Here's Agence-France Press and Telegraph UK on Twitter:

And at the Wall Street Journal, "Kenyan Mall Siege Enters Third Night: Security Forces Mount Assault as Details on Attackers Begin to Emerge":
NAIROBI, Kenya—The standoff at a popular shopping mall here entered its third night on Monday, as sketchy details began to emerge about the assailants, among them a Caucasian-looking woman in a head scarf.

The woman, said a Western security officer briefed on the assault, fired on shoppers with an assault rifle as they fled and dove for cover. Most of the other attackers remain unidentified.

Meanwhile, on Monday afternoon, Kenyan security forces mounted a major assault in an effort to free the more-than-40 people still believed to be inside. Gunfire and explosions erupted as the operation started, accompanied by a black plume of smoke billowing into the air.

Kenyan officials said they had been able to free almost all of the civilians inside, but declined to give a figure.

At least 62 people have been killed in the three-day siege that started on Saturday, after armed assailants rushed into the mall from three entrances and opened fire on those inside.

At least two attackers were killed and 10 people have been arrested in Kenya for questioning in connection with the assault, police said.

The account of female militants jibes with witnesses who said they saw women taking part in the assault.

One man said he saw three women among the assailants that came in and out of the supermarket storeroom in which he was hiding. Interior cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said Monday that some militants had disguised themselves women, without explaining why.

Meanwhile, Kenya's military, which is taking part in the counterassault on the mall, confirmed that the assailants came from a number of countries, although an official declined to disclose details in a briefing with reporters Monday.

"We have an idea who these people are, and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," said Maj. Gen. Julius Karanja, the chief of general staff for the Kenyan military.

The Somali al-Shabaab militant Islamist group claimed responsibility for the attack but didn't provide details on the assailants.

A list of purported attackers, including Europeans and Americans, appeared to have come from a Twitter account not sanctioned by the group. The list couldn't be independently verified.

The security forces also appeared to be growing to include international participants. Israeli forces joined Kenyan troops pursuing the militants inside the mall on Monday, said witnesses.

The Israeli government declined to comment on their presence and Kenyan officials continued to stress that the rescue was a purely Kenyan operation.

There are a number of Israeli-owned shops in Westgate and the mall itself is at least partially Israeli-owned.
More at that top link.

I'll be updating throughout the night.