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President Barack Obama condoles with Kenya over Westgate Mall terror attack
Updated Sunday, September 22nd 2013 at 21:08 GMT +3
President Barack Obama has phoned Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to express the United States' condolences after a terrorist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall.
The White House said Sunday that Obama also told Uhuru the US supports Kenya’s effort to bring the al-Shabab network of Islamic extremists to justice for the deadly attack.
Al-Shabab is Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked rebel group.
The militia claimed responsibility of the attacked on the shopping mall on Saturday which killed has so far killed 59 people.
The attackers said the strike was retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.
The White House also says during the morning call Obama reaffirmed the United States' partnership with the East African country.
Westgate Mall attack: Witness claims terrorist disguised as a victim fled
Updated Sunday, September 22nd 2013 at 22:10 GMT +3
— Abdul Ratiff
|Satpal Singh, a victim who escaped unhurt during the attack at Westgate Mall, narrates his ordeal. [PHOTO: EVANS HABIL]|
NAIROBI; KENYA: A witness claimed one of the terrorists escaped from the scene by joining victims who were being rescued by security forces out of the Westgate Mall.
Abdul Ratiff claimed one of the gunmen managed to walk out with them after he changed his clothes on the second floor after hurling grenades at people.
He claimed he tried to alert the police that one of the gunmen was in the group but they never paid attention.
“I saw him as he changed his clothes and he later walked out with us as police arrived. I tried to tell police he was one of the attackers but I was pushed away,” said the witness.
The witness said he had hidden in a Bata Shop inside the mall from where he saw the gunman change clothes.
“I saw him, a strong-built man. He was not a Somali. He was an Arab.
I hid and I could see him change clothes. He wore a maroon, long sleeved shirt and jeans,” he said. “At 4pm (Saturday) as we filed out, I saw the man. He followed us raising his hands up as though he is one of us,” the witness said.
“I shouted to the police that this is the man. But the police shouted back: get out,” he said.
“I had gone to buy a soda. I heard bullets, people running away. I went to first floor, then to the second floor but saw people rushing down. “
“I was at the first floor when I had the first gunshot and as I turned, I saw staff at Art Café being shot. It is then I escaped through the fire exit,” a guard who refused to be identified said.
“I saw three people dressed in black and with covered faces and they were carrying heavy rifles. They were shooting at us,” another witness said.
The rescued persons were ordered to march from the Westgate Mall to the nearby UKay Centre where they were asked to identify themselves.
Inside the UKay Centre, police were stationed to question and screen them for more information. In the confusion, there were some who managed to walk away without being questioned.
All the survivors were ordered to leave while raising their hands. This proved to be difficult as some of them were in shock and couldn’t do so. Tens of ambulances were on standby to carry the injured to hospital.
Some of the victims were shot while inside their vehicles, in shops within the mall, the parking yard and on the staircases.
Among the dead was a mother and her daughter who were seated in their car in a traffic jam outside the mall. Their bodies were removed from the car by Kenya Red Cross boss Abbass Gullet himself.
Witnesses said they saw at least 10 attackers but the exact number could not be established.
The siege continued all through the night and police said the gunmen were holed up inside the supermarket on the first floor.
They were hiding in a corner that sells mattresses where they would shoot at them and hide.
Meanwhile, Kenya Red Cross personnel led by their boss Abbass Gullet were in the forefront rescuing the injured.
And medics at hospitals around Westlands area had a difficult time attending to casualties that were being rushed in by the minute.
Ambulances from Kenya Red Cross and those belonging to various hospitals within Nairobi worked overtime rushing the injured to the hospital.
Most of the patients were rushed to Aga Khan and MP Shah hospitals where doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were coordinating efforts to receive them. There were chaotic scenes as nurses and other medical personnel struggled to get their act together.
Even casual staff had been deployed to help in receiving the patients and transporting them to the emergency wards.
At the MP Shah Hospital, one of the medical personnel stood at the gate shouting for people to come in and donate blood. And they responded in their hundreds.
At the Aga Khan Hospital, a large area behind the casualty wards had been set aside for donating blood.
Some of the casualties were taxi drivers who park outside the Westgate Mall.
Relatives had a difficult time tracing their loved ones, some of who were either workers at the mall or those they suspected to have been in the vicinity.
At the Aga Khan hospital, an information desk was set up to help those seeking information on victims.
Most relatives were referred to lists that had been pinned on hospital noticeboards.
By 5pm, the list at the MP Shah Hospital showed 176 people had either been admitted or treated and discharged.
Pakistani terror trainer behind Kenyan mall attack?
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Abu Musa Mombasa, a Pakistani citizen, serves as Shabaabs's chief of security and training, the Long War Journal had said in a 2010 report.
Kenyan troops were locked in a fierce firefight with Somali militants inside the Nairobi shopping mall on Sunday, in a final push to end a siege that has left 59 dead, including two Indians, and wounded 200 others with an unknown number of hostages still being held.
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-inspired Shahab rebels said the carnage at the part Israeli-owned complex was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are battling the Islamists.
Meanwhile, the Twitter account of Somalia's Shabab rebels was suspended on Saturday after they used the site to claim responsibility for the attack.
However, the group seems to have launched a new twitter account @HSM-PressOffice.
The Shabab's previous account, @HSMPress, was suspended in January after it posted photographs of a French commando they killed and threatened to execute Kenyan hostages.
Not to be deterred, they opened another account, @HSMPress1, but were again suspended earlier this month after threatening Somalia's president.
The group had issued a series of messages on Twitter on Saturday, claiming its fighters were behind the attack.