Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says the nation has triumphed over the terrorists who laid siege to a shopping mall in the capital Nairobi, after a four-day standoff. Forensic experts are now on the scene trying to determine the nationality of the attackers, and the final death toll.
In an address to the nation Tuesday evening, Kenyatta said five of the militants who attacked the Westgate mall were killed during military operations.
He said 61 civilians and six soldiers are also among the dead, but that many more bodies, including those of the remaining militants, may be buried in the rubble of the building after three stories of the mall collapsed during the final push.
Kenyatta praised Kenyans for staying united during days of horror and confusion.
“Fellow Kenyans, we have been badly hurt and feel great pain and loss, but we have been brave, united and strong. Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed,” said Kenyatta.
2006 - Launches insurgency to take control of Somalia and impose strict Islamic law
2008 - U.S. declares al-Shabab a foreign terrorist organization
2009 - Seizes control of parts of Mogadishu and the port city Kismayo
2010 - Expands control across central and southern Somalia, carries out deadly bombing in Kampala, Uganda
2011 - Blocks drought/famine aid from areas under its control
2011 - East African leaders declare al-Shabab a regional threat; Ethiopian, Kenyan troops enter Somalia to pursue the group, which is driven out of Mogadishu
2012 - Declares itself an al-Qaida ally, loses ground in Somalia, abandons strategic coastal stronghold Kismayo
2013 - Attacks Mogadishu court complex, killing more than 30 and attacks mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 69 people
Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which began mid-day Saturday when the assailants stormed the mall, armed with automatic guns and grenades.
The group said the attack was payback for Kenya’s military operations in southern Somalia.
Kenyatta acknowledged indications the fighters may have included militants from outside the region.
“Intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack. We cannot confirm the details at present, but forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists.”
Reports of a British woman’s involvement have raised speculation that the widow of one of the bombers responsible for the 2005 London subway bombings, Samantha Lewthwaite, may have been involved in the Westgate mall attack.
She has previously been linked to terrorist groups in Kenya and is wanted for planning other attacks in the country.
Kenyatta said authorities have arrested 11 people in connection with the mall attack. He also said Kenya will observe three days of mourning starting Wednesday for the victims of the Westgate siege.