AFP reports from a security source in Nairobi that Israeli special forces joined the Kenyan military in storming the Westgate shopping mall, Sunday, Sept. 22, to break the standoff with some dozen Al Qaeda-linked Somali Al Shabaab gunmen barricaded there with hostages for the second day. The death toll from the Saturday shooting-grenade attack has risen to 59 with 205 people injured.
debkafile, the only world publication to reveal the Israeli involvement from the start of the Nairobi mall attack Saturday, now discloses that the Israeli commandos were airlifted to Kenya when the Westgate mall was first attacked. Nairobi invoked a secret security pact between the two governments under which Jerusalem guarantees military assistance should the Kenyan government be threatened by a foreign force.
This was the first time Israeli special counter-terror forces have fought Al Qaeda terrorists face to face on foreign soil. The Israeli foreign ministery refused to confirm or deny any inovlvement in Kenya.
debkafile reported exclusively Saturday that the AQAP-backed Somali terrorists singled the target out to hit two targets – Kenya and Israel
After releasing Muslims, the raiders held onto an unknown number of hostages, some on the ground floor where Israeli shops are located; more in other parts of the seven-floor building. Unknown too is the number of injured and possibly dead victims, including foreigners, who are still trapped in the building. American, British, Canadian and French citizens were reported killed or injured in the initial attack Saturday.
The Kenyan and Israeli authorities have blanketed with secrecy the scene inside the mall, from which a barrage of gunfire and explosions were heard during the morning. Local police and special forces are trying to force the Islamist gunmen to surrender and give up the hostages.
Israeli security experts are known to be assisting in the operation.
The US sent a commando unit to Nairobi from bases in Italy and the UK, an advance counter-terror forward team. The Cobra cabinet is holding continuous sessions in London as the situation unfolds.
In Israel, no one in authority is willing to comment on the incident, despite Israel’s involvement. Three Israelis were reported rescued from the mall Saturday, but there is no word on any who may still be trapped there.
Since its creation in 2006, the Somali Al-Shabaab has maintained strong operational ties with the Yemen-based AQAP command for its long and bloody insurgency against the Mogadishu government. Our counter-terror sources report that the Somali wing receives training, munitions and medical care at al Qaeda’s Yemeni camps. They interact frequently by means of speedboats plying regularly between the Yemen and Somalia.
The scale of the Westgate mall attack, which was carried out by up to a score of well-trained fighting men armed with large quantities of ammunition, pointed to heavy AQAP involvement from the word go.
In the past, Al Qaeda has notoriously singled out American and Israeli targets in East Africa – the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2002 assault on Israeli tourists in Mombasa.
However, the Nairobi attack was related to the present.
Al Qaeda’s eyes and ears in Kenya didn’t miss the military and intelligence assistance Israel renders Kenya for its operations against Islamist terror in two areas: The Israeli army and security bodies send combat equipment and provide tactical advice to the Kenyan units fighting alongside Somali government forces against Al Shabaab; and Israel’s intelligence agencies and police are helping the Kenyan government build a strong shield or barrier against the Somali war’s spillover, to guard against Al Shabaab opening up a second front to the rear of the Kenyan forces fighting across the border.
This protective barrier clearly sprang a large leak Saturday.
See debkafile’s first report on the Westgate Mall attack Saturday, Sept. 21.
Subject: [PK] MAN OF THE DAY
Kenya minister says 59 killed in mall attack
Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where hostages are being held by militants. The radicals attacked the mall Saturday and remained inside throughout the night.
"The priority is to save as many lives as possible," Joseph Lenku said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the upscale Westgate mall. Kenyan forces have already rescued about 1,000 people, he said.
Ten to 15 attackers remain in the mall and Kenyan forces control the security cameras inside the shopping center, Lenku said. Combined military and police forces surrounded the mall in the Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi, which is frequented by foreigners and wealthy Kenyans.
Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters at the mall that he has been told officials couldn't determine the exact number of hostages inside the mall.
"There are quite a number of people still being held hostage on the third floor and the basement area where the terrorists are still in charge," Odinga said.
Somalia's al-Qaida-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack in which they used grenades and assault rifles and specifically targeted non-Muslims.
Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including French, Canadians and Chinese.
A 38-year-old Chinese woman was killed in the shopping mall "terror attack," the Chinese Embassy in Kenya said in a statement Sunday. Her son was injured in the attack and in a stable condition in hospital, according to the statement posted on the embassy's website.
Nineteen people, including at least four children, died after being admitted to Nairobi's MP Shah hospital, said Manoj Shah, the hospital's chairman. "We have at least two critical patients currently, one with bullets lodged near the spine," he said.
The hospital continued to receive patients Sunday, he said.
Ghanain poet Kofi Awoonor died after being injured in the attack, Ghana's presidential office confirmed.
Kenya's presidential office said that one of the attackers was arrested on Saturday and died after suffering from bullet wounds.
Trucks brought in a fresh contingent of soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces early Sunday.
"Violent extremists continue to occupy Westgate Mall. Security services are there in full force," said the United States embassy in an emergency text message issued Sunday morning.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said late Saturday that his government had sent a rapid deployment team to Kenya to help. Britons had undoubtedly been caught up in the "callous and cowardly and brutal" assault at the Westgate mall, said Hague.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the attacks and "expressed their solidarity with the people and Government of Kenya" in a statement.
There was some good news on Sunday, as Kenyan media reported that several people in hiding in the mall escaped to safety, suggesting that not everyone who is still inside is being held by al-Shabab.
Cecile Ndwiga said she had been hiding under a car in the basement parking garage.
"I called my husband to ask the soldiers to come and rescue me. Because I couldn't just walk out anyhow. The shootout was all over here — left, right— just gun shots," she said.
Nairobi resident Paolo Abenavoli said he is holed up in his apartment only 100 meters from the mall with a direct view of the entrance. He said he could see a dozen or more security forces inside a first floor restaurant.
"The battle is on now," Abenavoli told The Associated Press by telephone as the fresh gunfire broke out Sunday.
Security forces had pushed curious crowds far back from the mall. Hundreds of residents gathered on a high ridge above the mall to watch for any activity.
Associated Press reporters Tom Odula and Jacob Kushner in Nairobi, Kenya; Louise Watt in Beijing; and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Israeli forces join Kenya battle to end deadly mall siege
- Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said 59 people were confirmed dead, while the Red Cross has estimated the number of injured at around 200.
Shoppers in Kenya mowed down by al-Qaeda operatives Kenya News.
Net Sunday 22nd September, 2013
A shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi has been attacked by gunmen from an al-Qaeda affiliate. The attack occurred around noon Sunday at the Westgate Mall, where hundreds of people were shopping. Around 40 people were killed and 200 others were wounded after gunmen allowed some people to leave while taking the others hostage. Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked terror group based in Somalia, has claimed responsibility. The gunmen initially placed themselves on the second floor of the mall, looking down on ground floor customers. Before throwing grenades and shooting into the crowd they allowed a number of people to leave. The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and go. The Muslim shoppers were then escorted en-masse from the mall before the carnage began, suggesting the attack was planned against people of other religions. A short time after the first killings police arrived and managed to herd the al-Qaeda militants into a small area of the mall using gunfire. Two gunmen were also killed during the attack. Kenyan officials have said the gunmen and some hostages are still inside the Nairobi mall. The Westgate Mall bills itself as the city's premier mall, boasting that it offers customers a "first world interior" and a "safe and serene environment." The mall has more than 80 stores and restaurants. The US State Department has confirmed four Americans were among the wounded, which included women and children. A spokesman for the US government extended sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of those who had been killed or injured, including the American citizens who were injured. Al-Shabab has been implicated in a string of attacks in Kenya in recent years. The group has been issuing threats against Kenya since the country sent troops into southern Somalia in 2011 and helped drive the militants out of the port city of Kismayo. Shabab has published a statement saying the attack on the Westgate shopping mall was "retributive justice" for Kenya's actions in Somalia. -
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Sunday, September 22, 2013
Former Nation journalist killed
- Mr Sang said the deceased was attacked as he waited for his wife Carolyne Risancho Kago to open the gate to the deceased’s house.
By PETER LEFTIE
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Shopping mall is premier complex that’s home to international brands
- One of its most popular attractions is the 110,000-square-feet Nakumatt superstore.
- The Kids Corner is a fun area for children while Planet Media Cinemas Complex and Media Store houses a movie hall, besides selling video games, DVDs, CDs, books and magazines.
- Creamy Inn, Onami Restaurant and Sub Zone are just a few of other joints with branches in the mall.
21 September 2013 Last updated at 22:39 ET
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Somalia's al-Shabab claims Nairobi Westgate Kenya attack
The gunmen have been cornered but an unknown number of hostages are still trapped inside Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, officials say.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said 39 people had been killed, including some of his family, and 150 were injured.
Al-Shabab said the attack was in response to Kenyan troops in Somalia.
There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011.
On its Twitter feed, al-Shabab - which has links to al-Qaeda - said it was behind what it called the "Westgate spectacle".
In his TV address, Mr Kenyatta said security forces were "in the process of neutralising the attackers and securing the mall".
He went on: "We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get to them and we shall punish them for this heinous crime."
He said he had "personally lost family members in the Westgate attack".
Kenya has about 4,000 troops in southern Somalia. They intervened in 2011 following attacks and kidnappings in northern Kenya near the Somali border.
The Kenyans were subsequently integrated into a larger African Union (AU) force of 17,000 soldiers. It has a UN mandate to protect the weak Somali government.
In practice this means the AU force - known as Amisom - attack al-Shabab where they can. But al-Shabab still control at least half of southern Somalia.
Al-Shabab respond to Amisom by mounting hit and run attacks. They say Amisom are invaders stopping their legitimate vision of creating an Islamic state.
Here in Kismayo, for example, the airport comes under regular attack by small arms fire suspected to come from al-Shabaab positions. The Kenyan army responds with heavier weapons to chase the attackers away.
A police officer inside the shopping centre told Reuters that the remaining gunmen were barricaded inside a Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya's biggest chains.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre said the number of hostages was "still unknown, but they are in several locations".
"The gunmen have been contained in one location, but there are hostages elsewhere in the vicinity who cannot access the exit," the centre said on its Twitter feed.
Upper levels of the mall had been secured, it said.
The attackers entered the Westgate centre at about 12:00 local time (09:00 GMT), throwing grenades and firing automatic weapons. A children's day event was being held at the time.
The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner says a security source told him that at least one of the attackers was a woman who appeared to have some kind of leadership role.
Our correspondent says that it is unclear how many civilians are hostages and how many are in hiding.
Al-Shabab said on Twitter that the Kenyan government wanted to negotiate an end to the Westgate attack. But officials have told the BBC they intend to hunt the gunmen down.
One gunman was arrested and died of his wounds, Kenyan officials told the BBC. Four other gunmen were arrested.
Security experts are reported to have long warned that the complex, which is at least in part Israeli-owned, was in danger of being subjected to a terror attack.
Some witnesses said the gunmen had told Muslims to leave and said non-Muslims would be targeted.
"They came and said: 'If you are Muslim, stand up. We've come to rescue you," said Elijah Lamau.
He said the Muslims left with their hands up, and then the gunmen shot two people.
The correspondent in Nairobi for the Economist, Daniel Howden told the BBC he spoke to one man with a Christian first name but a Muslim-sounding surname who managed to escape the attackers by putting his thumb over his first name on his ID.
Al-Shabab at a glance
- "The Youth" in Arabic
- Formed as a radical offshoot of the Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu, in 2006
- Previously ran much of southern Somalia
- Lost some popular support by banning Western aid agencies during 2011 famine
- Estimated to have 7,000 to 9,000 fighters
The BBC's Mark Doyle, who is embedded with the African Union (AU) mission in Somalia, says the AU troops attack al-Shabab where they can.
Al-Shabab says the AU forces are invaders stopping their legitimate vision of creating an Islamic state and respond by mounting hit-and-run attacks, our correspondent says.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there would "undoubtedly" be British nationals caught up in Saturday's events.
The US State Department says it has reports that American citizens were injured in what it called "a senseless act of violence".
Two French citizens were among the victims of the attack, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
President Francois Hollande "condemns the cowardly attack in the strongest terms and shares the pain of the family of our compatriots", it said.
Two Canadians, including a diplomat, are also among the dead.
Nairobi's mortuary superintendent, Sammy Nyongesa Jacob, told Reuters that Africans, Asians and Caucasians were among the bodies brought to the mortuary.
This is one of the worst incidents in Kenya since the attack on the US embassy in August 1998.
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Saturday, September 21, 2013
World leaders condemn Westgate Mall attack
By JOHN NGIRACHU
Saturday, September 21, 2013
I saw five armed men and a woman: Officer
- He said the shots that were fired had a bigger impact than an ordinary G3 gun.
- Mr Musungu described the assailants as heartless people who shot aimlessly. “One of them wrapped a white turban on his head. They were very young and the woman appeared to be lethal,” he added.
- A security officer manning the gates at the mall said the assailants started shooting from the gate and gave them no room to do security checks.