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September 23, 2013

Kenyan Govt: Army in Control of Besieged Mall, All Hostages Free

by VOA News

Kenyan officials say the army has taken complete control of the besieged Nairobi shopping mall from Islamist terrorists, and that all hostages have been freed.

Soldiers are still combing the huge Westgate shopping center floor-by-floor.

Al-Shabab extremists from Somalia claimed responsibility for taking over the mall during a busy shopping day Saturday. Gunmen walked from store-to-store, shooting down shoppers. They also opened fire on a group of children in a cooking class and murdered people in the parking lot. At least 62 people were killed along with two gunmen. The Red Cross puts the death toll at 69.

Al-Shabab says the attack was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia. It demands all Kenyan forces leave Somalia -- a demand the Kenyan government rejects.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he has spoken directly with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, and will provide whatever law enforcement assistance Kenya needs.

Obama said he is confident Kenya will rebuild. He called it one of Africa's most stable democracies.

Among those killed Saturday were nationals from Britain, Canada, China, France, India and South Korea.

Kenyatta vows to stand firm against terrorism and punish those behind the attack "swiftly" and "very painfully." The president said his nephew and the young man's fiancee were among those killed.

Kenyan forces entered neighboring Somalia two years ago to help rout al-Shabab, which has been fighting to turn Somalia into a conservative Islamic state. Al-Shabab militants often crossed the border to stage attacks in Kenya.

The FBI is investigating reports that some Americans who joined al-Shabab were involved in the mall attack.