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Kenyan Police Facing Off Gunmen Who Killed 39 in Nairobi Shopping Mall

Authorities in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, are still working early Sunday to apprehend gunmen who killed 39 people and wounded more than 150 others in a brazen attack on a busy shopping mall.

Officials say security forces have contained the attackers in one location inside Nairobi's Westgate Mall, where they have been holed up since Saturday. Kenya's National Disaster Operation Centre said an unknown number of hostages are still inside and cannot get to an exit.

The Somali terrorist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it is retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia. An al-Shabab 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-Shabab militants who had often 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. Children were among the wounded.

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.

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.

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.

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