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Kenya Military Launches Attack to End Siege

A Kenyan military spokesman says most of the hostages trapped in a Nairobi shopping mall by Islamist gunmen have been rescued, and that most of the complex is secure.

After sundown on Sunday, the military began an assault on the upscale mall where an unknown number of hostages were being held by al-Qaida-linked militants.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said at least one attacker was killed during efforts to end the deadly two-day siege. Officials did not immediately give the number of hostages rescued or the number that remain.

The Kenyan Red Cross increased the number of deaths to 68 after the bodies of nine more people were recovered. At least 175 others were wounded in the deadly attack that began Saturday inside the Westgate Mall.



In an emotional speech delivered Sunday, President Kenyatta vowed to stand firm against the threat of terrorism, adding that Kenyan security forces have a good chance of neutralizing those responsible for the attack.



"They shall not get away with their despicable and beastly acts. Like the cowardly perpetrators now cornered in the building, we will punish the masterminds swiftly and indeed very painfully."



The president added that his nephew and (his nephew's) fiancee were among those killed in the attack.



"I feel the pain of every life we have lost and share your grief at our nation's loss."



The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it is in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia. An al-Shabaab spokesman said in an audio message, "Either leave our country or live with constant attacks."

Kenyan forces entered Somalia two years ago to fight al-Shabaab militants who often had crossed the border to stage attacks.

The U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attack. Mr. Ban called it a "premeditated" and "totally reprehensible" act targeting defenseless civilians.

Witnesses said the gunmen wore masks and tossed hand grenades at the Westgate Mall during busy shopping hours.

Among those killed in the attack were three British nationals, as well as nationals from France, Canada, China, India and South Korea. The United States says no Americans were killed, but that some have been wounded.

U.S. President Barack Obama called President Kenyatta Sunday to express his condolences and reaffirm the U.S. commitment with Kenya to fight terrorism.

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