Authorities in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, were still working early Sunday to apprehend gunmen who killed 39 people and injured more than 150 others in a brazen attack on a busy shopping mall.
Officials say security forces have surrounded the attackers who have been holed up inside Nairobi's Westgate Mall since Saturday and are believed to hold hostages. Somali terrorist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility.
VOA's reporter in Nairobi says there are concerns that some of the gunmen might have escaped immediately after the attack.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta sought to reassure shaken Kenyans in an address to the nation just hours after the attack. The president condemned what he called the cowardly act and praised Kenyans for their solidarity in the face of the terrorist threat.
"Terrorism in and of itself is the philosophy of cowards. The way we lead our lives in freedom, unity and consideration for each other represents our victory over those who wish us ill."
President Kenyatta vowed that the perpetrators will be caught and dealt with. He said the government stands ready to defend the country from within and from outside. Kenyan forces entered Somalia two years ago to fight al-Shabab militants who had often crossed the border to stage attacks.
Gunmen opened fire and tossed hand grenades at the Westgate Mall during busy shopping hours. Children were among the wounded.
Canada and France each say two of their citizens were killed. The United States says no Americans were killed, but that some have been injured. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack and said the United States has offered Kenya's government its full support to help bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.
Witnesses say the gunmen wore masks. One survivor who had been trapped inside the mall for several hours said he heard leaders of the attack speaking in a language he did not understand.
Al-Shabab posted messages on the Internet saying it carried out the assault in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia.
Al-Shabab said it had warned in the past that Kenya's military presence in Somalia would bring "severe consequences." The militants said on Twitter that the bloodshed at the mall in Nairobi is only a "very tiny fraction" of the violence that has been inflicted on Muslims in Somalia.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm about the attack and spoke to the Kenyan president about it.