Story Summary

Kenya mall attack

On Sept. 21 an estimated 10-15 gunmen overtook the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. The men are believed to be from an Al Qaeda-linked Somalia militia.

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(CNN) — A military standoff with terrorists at a Kenyan mall was apparently drawing to a close Tuesday after four days of carnage left at least 61 civilians and six security officers dead.

Five terrorists were also killed, and 11 other suspects are in custody, Kenya’s president said. About 175 people were injured, he added.

As authorities indicated the siege was all but over, many questions will have to be answered, such as did the terrorists include Americans, a British subject and a Canadian national, as claimed by Al-Shabaab, the Islamic extremists who took responsibility for the gun attack.

Attackers defeated, Kenya’s president says

For now, Kenya reels from a horrific terror attack at Nairobi’s upscale Westgate mall — frequented by well-to-do Kenyans and the expatriate community — which began just after high noon Saturday.

Day One: Saturday

It was a nice day at the 80-store mall. A cooking competition was held for youths, perhaps some aspiring to become chefs. Visitors stocked up on staples at a supermarket or sipped coffee at a cafe.

Without warning, gunmen stormed the mall, shooting people outside the five-story structure and then inside it. Shoppers said they also heard grenades exploding.

Other witnesses described it “like a Hollywood-action scene,” said hospital volunteer Abiti Shah.

Mall customers crawled beneath cars in the parking lot and found cover in stairwells and a women’s bathroom, presumably because the gunmen would be reluctant to look in that gender’s restrooms.

‘Westgate bad, blood … I ran, ran, ran’

Attackers went from store to store, taking hostages or randomly firing upon people. Gunmen asked customers whether they were Muslim. The terrorists apparently allowed people of that faith to escape from the mall.

The chaos included an unclear report on deaths. Finally, by day’s end, 39 people were counted as killed — a number that would grow.

Several hours into the terror assault, an al-Qaeda offshoot in neighboring Somalia called Al-Shabaab used its Twitter account to claim responsibility. Authorities now learned who they were dealing with, and the international community condemned the terror, including the Kenyan president whose nephew and his fiancée were among those killed.

Day Two: Sunday

The terrorists continued their siege of the mall, and confusion prevailed over the number of deaths and hostages.

Security forces decided to launch a “major assault” on the mall, police said.

As another violent day unfolded, “most of the hostages” were rescued, and security forces took control of “most parts” of the mall, the Kenyan military said.

Gunfire punctuated the day. Between the bullets are moments of silence. Soldiers surrounded the mall.

Authorities numbered the gunmen involved in the attack: 10 to 15 attackers. Further, unconfirmed reports emerged on who they could be: As many as three are from the United States, two are from Somalia and one each from Canada, Finland, Kenya and the United Kingdom. That information came from sources within Al-Shabaab who spoke to CNN about nine names published on Twitter who were purported to be the alleged hostage-takers.

Bergen: Al-Shabaab’s American allies

CNN couldn’t independently confirm that claim by Al-Shabaab.

“All efforts are underway to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion,” the Kenyan military said.

Day Three: Monday

The first announcement about deaths on the other side of the siege is made: Three terrorists have been killed, authorities said.

So far, more than 200 civilians have been rescued, they added. But 11 Kenyan soldiers have been wounded, the military said.

Kenyan officials reassured the world that they were in control of the mall. The terrorists have little chance of escape, authorities said.

But sporadic gunfire sent aid workers and journalists running for cover. Inside the mall, the terrorists ignited a fire, spewing heavy smoke throughout the afternoon.

“We’re not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them,” Kenyan police Inspector General David Kimaiyo warned on Twitter.

Even away from the mall, the country faced intensified security. At various locations, more than 10 people were taken into custody for questioning about the attack, including at least four people from an airport.

Opinion: What does attack mean for Kenyan security?

Authorities released a few details about the death toll: Most of the dead were apparently Kenyans, but the slain included six British citizens, two French nationals, two Indians and two Canadians, including a diplomat, their governments said.

Among the 175 people wounded were five Americans, the State Department said.

In response to the unconfirmed claim that the terrorists included Americans, U.S. authorities reviewed intelligence reports for evidence of a U.S. connection to the attack, law enforcement sources said. But a senior U.S. official said the claim wasn’t looking too solid.

Final Day? Tuesday

As the world anxiously awaited a conclusion to the terrorists’ siege of the mall, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced forces killed five terrorists at the mall and arrested 11 others for possible ties to the attack.

“We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” the president said.

That announcement, however, didn’t answer important questions: were there foreign nationals among the terrorists, what happened to the hostages and what’s the status of the 65 people that the Red Cross says are unaccounted for?

By the end of day four, the material condition of the besieged mall evoked a war scene: three floors of the mall collapsed during the government’s counter-offensive against the terrorists, trapping bodies inside, the president said.

Those trapped bodied include terrorists, Kenyatta said.

“Our attackers wish to destroy the essential character of our society. They failed,” Kenyatta said. “Kenya endures.”

kenya mall1


Elif Yavuz poses for a photograph with former President Bill Clinton. (Clinton Foundation Photo / September 23, 2013)

By Carrie Wells

The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — A graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s international studies school, eight months pregnant, was among dozens killed in the weekend massacre at a Kenyan shopping mall.

Elif Yavuz, 33, who earned her graduate degree from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in 2004, was killed along with her husband, architect Ross Langdon, according to media reports.

Gunmen stormed the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on Saturday, and were still locked in a standoff with Kenyan forces by Monday. At least 62 people were killed.

[The Washington Post reported that Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said Monday that “two or three Americans” and “one Brit” were among the perpetrators of the attack. She said in an interview with “PBS Newshour” that the Americans were 18 to 19 years old, of Somali or Arab origin and lived “in Minnesota and one other place” in the United States. The British jihadist was a woman who has “done this many times before,” Mohamed said. U.S. officials said Monday that they were pressing to determine whether any of the assailants were American.]

Yavuz, whose family is Turkish and grew up in the Netherlands, studied at the SAIS’s campus in Bologna, Italy, in 2002 and 2003 and finished her European studies degree at the school’s Washington, D.C., campus, according to Hopkins officials. She later worked for the World Bank and earned a doctorate in public health from Harvard University earlier this year, focusing on malaria in east Africa.

Langdon, her husband, worked to develop tourism strategies for east Africa that were environmentally sustainable and designed an HIV/AIDS hospital pro-bono, according to media reports. The couple was reportedly in Nairobi because Yavuz was due to give birth in two weeks.

Matthias Matthijs, an assistant professor at SAIS who was in the same program as Yavuz, described her as vibrant and fun, the kind of person who would often invite fellow students to the bar to socialize.

“There’s certain people who, with their sheer force of personality, will make a night a good night,” Matthijs said. “It’s kind of like a light went out in the world.”

Yavuz was a fashionable dresser and lively individual who had been drawn to east Africa, despite beginning her international studies with a focus on Europe, he said. Matthijs said the couple wanted to keep the gender of the baby they were expecting a surprise until the birth and were just getting settled in east Africa.

“They just moved there to start this whole new chapter,” he said.

At the time of her death, Yavuz was working for the Clinton Foundation. The organization released a statement offering condolences to her loved ones. Yavuz was “brilliant, dedicated, and deeply admired,” the foundation said, on behalf of former President Bill Clinton and other Clintons.

“We were shocked and terribly saddened to learn of the death of Elif Yavuz in the senseless attacks in Nairobi,” the statement said. “Elif devoted her life to helping others, particularly people in developing countries suffering from malaria and HIV/AIDS.”

Vali Nasr, dean of SAIS, also sent a message about her death to the university community on Monday.

“The entire SAIS community mourns the loss of Elif, who committed her all-too-brief life to serving others around the world,” Nasr wrote. “We express our deepest condolences to Elif’s family and friends.”

By Nicholas Soi and Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan officials said early Tuesday that the violent standoff at an upscale shopping mall was drawing to a close and that all hostages were believed to have been freed.

“Our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind,” the Interior Ministry said in a tweet about 1 a.m. “We believe all hostages have been released.”

No other details were given.

Gunfire and explosions were heard on and off throughout the day Monday, after security forces launched a dawn assault to flush out the militants who stormed the Westgate mall Saturday.

The security operation peaked in the early afternoon, with a volley of explosions and heavy arms fire. Black smoke poured from the building, as a fire raged for several hours.

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said the number of people killed since Saturday stood at 62, and that 50 of the 175 injured remained hospitalized.

At least three gunmen were killed and several others were injured, according to defense officials. Unconfirmed reports from Kenyan media later said the number of militants killed had risen to six.

The Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked militia in Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the assault. It had been warning for nearly two years that it would mount a major attack in Kenya to punish the country for sending troops into Somalia. Until Saturday, however, its attacks had consisted mostly of small-scale shootings and grenade attacks.

Kenyan armed forces chief Gen. Julius Karangi said the militants involved in the attack came from different countries, but he declined to specify which. The Shabab is known to have recruited foreigners, including Americans and Europeans, to fight in Somalia. It has also recruited Kenyans.

Karangi said Monday’s fire was started by the assailants as a diversion, in a bid to flee the mall. Officials said the building was surrounded and that there would be no escape for the militants.

As questions arose about possible security and intelligence failures, Kenyan officials posted upbeat updates on Twitter throughout the day.

“Spread some love, hug a friend, hug a stranger, we’re Kenya,” said one tweet from the Interior Ministry.

“We’re increasingly gaining advantage of the attackers,” tweeted Kenyan Police Chief David Chimayo. “Thumbs up to our multi-agency team, we have just managed to rescue some hostages.”

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

kenya mall attack

By Nicholas Soi and Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan security forces killed three assailants from an Al Qaeda-linked Somalia militia after unleashing a major assault to end the standoff at a shopping mall here, defense officials said.

With the crisis at the Westgate shopping center in its third day, officials said 10 suspects had been arrested for questioning, including two at the Nairobi airport.

The big unanswered questions concerned the number of people held by the gunmen, and their welfare, after Shabab militants threatened to kill hostages if there was an assault.

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said only that efforts to release the hostages were “very, very successful” and those being held were “very few.”

Police officials said some hostages were released Monday, but there was no word on how many, or where they were taken.

Lenku told reporters that the number of dead stood at 62, and that 50 of the 175 injured were still being treated in hospitals. A Defense Ministry spokesman said 10 bodies had been recovered from the mall in the previous 24 hours. It was not clear whether they were all included in Lenku’s toll.

The Kenya Red Cross had previously reported that 69 people were killed, but later revised the toll to 62, saying some bodies had been double-counted.

The assault by security forces began with weapons fire ringing out at dawn Monday. After sporadic shooting, the attack reached a crescendo in the early afternoon, with a volley of explosions and heavy arms fire. Black smoke poured out of the building, as a fire raged for several hours.

Kenyan armed forces chief Gen. Julius Karangi told reporters that the fire was started by the assailants as a diversion, in a bid to flee the building. Officials said the building was surrounded and that there would be no escape for the terrorists.

Kenyan officials earlier said that 10 to 15 gunmen were involved in the attack.

Karangi said the militants came from different countries. Shabab, the group that has claimed responsibility for the attack, is known to have recruited foreigners, including Americans and Europeans, to fight in Somalia. It has also recruited Kenyans.

“We have an idea who these people are and they’re clearly a multinational collection from all over the world,” Karangi said.

He also said that security forces were in control of all floors at the mall and were searching the building to ensure no gunmen were hiding. The gunfire continued after he spoke.

Kenyan officials posted upbeat updates on Twitter throughout the day.

“Spread some love, hug a friend, hug a stranger, we’re Kenya,” ran one tweet from the Interior Ministry.

“We’re increasingly gaining advantage of the attackers,” Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo said Monday. “Thumbs up to our multi-agency team, we have just managed to rescue some hostages.”

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

Around lunchtime, as the operation suddenly intensified, armed personnel carriers and soldiers moved in. Ambulances were on the scene, and fire trucks also moved in as the smoke thickened.

There was a lull, but another intense barrage of fighting broke out inside the building in the late afternoon. Journalists outside the mall were asked to lie down and take cover.

Police used tear gas to disperse crowds who had gathered not far from the Westgate facility on Monday.

kenya mall

National & World News

More gunfire heard near Kenya mall

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) – Heavy gunfire sent aid workers and journalists scrambling outside Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall on Monday afternoon, more than an hour after a Kenyan government official said security forces had taken full control of the four-story building from terrorists.

It was unclear if any hostages remained inside the building, but authorities expect the number to be “very, very minimal,” if any remain, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said at a news briefing.

NairobiMost had already been evacuated, he said Monday, the third day of the siege.

The Kenyan Red Cross said that 62 people had died since the Saturday attack by gunmen from the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terror group. The agency had previously reported 69 deaths. Some bodies had been counted twice, it said on Twitter.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

506px-Kenya-relief-map-townsNAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) - Fifty-nine dead. At least 175 injured. About 30 hostages still inside, as well as perhaps a dozen gunmen.

Those are the grim numbers, a day after attackers stormed an upscale Nairobi mall, spraying bullets and holding shoppers captive.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta told reporters Sunday afternoon the tragedy was personal; one of his nephews and his fiancee were among the 59 people killed.

“We will punish the masterminds (of the attack) swiftly, and indeed very painfully,” Kenyatta said.

Kenyan government and Western diplomatic sources said Al-Shabaab militants were holding about 30 hostages inside the shopping center.

By noon Sunday, as grim-faced Kenyan soldiers warily searched the five-story building — and as Al-Shabaab maintained its defiant stance — the siege was no closer to a resolution.

Officials believe 10 to 15 gunmen are involved, State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said Sunday.

“We know that they were across the building,” Esipisu told CNN’s Zain Verjee. “We know that they are now isolated somewhere within the building.”

More than 175 were injured in the attack, Kenyatta said.

It was the deadliest terror attack in the nation since al Qaeda blew up the U.S. Embassy in 1998, killing more than 200 people.

The attack Saturday targeted a popular weekend meeting spot. Kenyans and expatriates gather at the luxurious Westgate mall on weekends to drink lattes, catch a movie or browse through the more than 80 stores.

Al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, claimed responsibility, and said it was not backing down. In a message on its Twitter feed, the group said “all Muslims” were escorted from the mall before the attack.

“When justice is denied, it must be enforced,” it said in a tweet Sunday. “Kenyans were relatively safe in their cities before they invaded us & killed Muslims #Westgate”

As the sun rose Sunday, the standoff between Kenyan forces and the attackers continued.

Soldiers kept vigil outside the mall, guns dangling from their shoulders.

“We want to do everything possible, and the security people are doing everything possible to make sure we lose no more lives,” Esipisu said.


Wikipedia Commons

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) - Gunmen attacked an upscale shopping mall in the Kenyan capital on Saturday, leading to a fierce gunbattle with police and leaving at least 30 people dead, the Kenyan Red Cross said.

Fifty more people were wounded in the attack at the mall in Nairobi, said Abbas Gullet, head of the Kenyan Red Cross.

The gunmen burst into the mall and shot indiscriminately, taking some people hostage, according to a senior Kenyan government source.

“All of a sudden we heard some shots and people rushing,” said Zulobia Kassam, who was having coffee at the mall. “We realized we were under attack. We rushed to the back, trying to hide and we heard random shots from everywhere — upstairs, downstairs.”

She said they stayed in hiding for about 40 minutes before sneaking out through a back door.

“People were petrified, crying, praying,” she said. “We were told there were hostages being held.”

It was unclear how many hostages the attackers took, but police are trying to negotiate for their release and retake the building, according to the source.

Crowds dashed down the streets as soldiers in military fatigues crawled under cars to get closer to the mall, guns cocked.

Surveillance helicopters flew overhead.

Police took those rescued from the building to a secluded place for vetting to ensure they were not attackers. They streamed away from the mall in a straight line, arms raised up in the air.

Attackers appear to be of Somali origin, a Kenyan government source and Western diplomatic sources told CNN.