NAIROBI, KENYA - The hostage crisis at a mall in Kenya’s capital stretched into a fourth day Tuesday as the military continued operations to secure the site. More than 60 people have been killed since al-Shabab militants stormed the shopping center on Saturday.
Sporadic gunfire and the sound of explosions were heard coming from the Westgate shopping center for most of the day Tuesday, amid reports that some of the militants could still be inside.
Kenya’s Interior Ministry says it is “near the very end” of the fight, but officials have issued similar messages for the past two days.
The Somali militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, which began mid-day Saturday when at least 10 assailants stormed the upscale shopping center, armed with guns and grenades, and killed anyone in their path.
The Red Cross says 62 people have been confirmed killed and another 175 injured in the on-going assault. At least three Kenyan soldiers have also been killed, while an unknown number of hostages are believed to still be inside the building.
In a message on Twitter, the militants claimed there are a “countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall.”
Al-Shabab has said the siege is in retaliation for Kenya’s military operations targeting the group in southern Somalia. A Somalia analyst based in Nairobi, calls the mall attack an act of desperation.
“If you look at, for the last one year, al-Shabab has been defeated by the KDF, Kenya Defense Forces, so I can say this, this act of, this situation at Westgate, I can describe it as the last kick of a dying horse,” said Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamed.
Kenyan military officials say the militants involved in the siege are multi-national. Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told an American news program, "PBS NewsHour" that two or three Americans and a British woman were among the militants.
Kenya's interior minister had previously said all of the attackers were men.