An Australian has been confirmed as among those killed in Kenya’s shopping mall siege, which continues as authorities remain locked in a stand-off with Al Shabaab militants.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson confirmed the death of a person holding dual Australian and British citizenship in the terrorist raid, but did not provide any further details.
“The Australian Government deeply regrets this loss of life,” the department said in a statement.
A 23-year-old Melbourne woman was among the survivors of the attack, Fairfax Radio reported, having hid for six hours in a phone store inside the mall before running to safety.
Up to 15 armed militants from the Somali terrorist group are keeping police and the military at bay “in several locations” throughout the Westgate complex, more than a day after the gunmen stormed the mall and shot scores of people.
Almost 200 people were injured in the attacks at the upmarket mall, which is used by locals, the expatriate community and tourists.
Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters government troops and police have identified the location of the attackers and that the operation is very “delicate”.
“We have confirmed the location of the criminals but will not give (out) the details,” he said.
“We don’t want to lose innocent life.”
He said authorities were also trying to indentify the gunmen – which may include both male and female attackers – and that more than 1,000 people were evacuated from the mall after the shooting broke out.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard coming from inside the shopping centre at various times yesterday (local time), and two wounded soldiers were evacuated and taken away by ambulance.
Witnesses have described the panic as everyone tried to flee or hide in storerooms and shops.
One survivor, who gave his name as Jay, said he saw gunmen round up shoppers, ask them questions – possibly to find out if they were Muslims – and then shoot them dead.
Kenya’s interior ministry is urging people who still have not heard from friends or family to make contact.
President Uhuru Kenyatta – who himself lost relatives in the attack – said he hoped for a positive end to the crisis, as the top priority is to safeguard the lives of those being held.
The raid presents Mr Kenyatta with his first major security challenge since an election victory in March.
“We have overcome terrorist attacks before,” he said.
gunmen who vow not to negotiate
The focus of attention overnight was on Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya’s biggest chains.
Soldiers joined the security operation backed by armoured personnel carriers in the hours after the attack. Security forces have been combing through the mall, clearing the floors.
Helicopters hovered over the capital, which a paramilitary officer at the scene said would be “arranging how to attack (the assailants)”.
Yesterday morning (local time), army reinforcements poured into the area around the shopping centre as operations to end the stand-off continued.
Large numbers of soldiers in helmets and flak jackets, some carrying rocket-propelled grenades, could be seen headed towards the mall.
The interior ministry says the upper floors of the four-storey mall have been secured and the attackers are isolated somewhere on the ground floor or in the basement.
Witnesses have said the attackers are armed with AK-47 rifles and are wearing ammunition belts.
Al Shabaab said the attack was retribution for Kenya’s operations against the group in Somalia, and on its official Twitter account said the surviving gunmen would not negotiate with security forces.
One militant died of his wounds after being arrested by Kenyan security forces, the government said on Saturday.
The UN Security Council has condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the deadly attack.
“The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest possible terms [the] terrorist attack in Nairobi, which has caused numerous deaths and injuries,” a unanimous declaration said.
The 15 council member states also vowed to “combat all forms of terrorism”.
“The members of the Security Council expressed their solidarity with the people and government of Kenya at this difficult time,” the statement added.
British, Canadian citizens among dead
British prime minister David Cameron said three British citizens had been confirmed dead in the attacks, a number the British foreign office said would likely rise.
Mr Cameron described the attack as “an absolutely sickening and despicable attack of appalling brutality”.
France said two of its citizens were killed, and Canada said two Canadians died, including a 29-year-old diplomat.
Ghanaian diplomat and poet, Kofi Awoonor, was also killed, as was a Chinese woman, according to China’s official news agency.
US secretary of state John Kerry, who offered assistance to Kenya in the incident, said several US citizens had been hurt and the wife of a US diplomat working for a US development agency was killed.
Aussie woman recounts horror siege
A Melbourne woman and her father have crawled out of a six-hour nightmare spent trapped in a Kenyan shopping centre under attack by terrorists.
Sarah Williamson, 23, the ex-girlfriend of Carlton skipper Marc Murphy, was visiting her father in Nairobi when they were caught up in the horrific siege that has seen at least 59 people killed and at least 200 wounded.
Her mother, Linda Williamson, said her daughter described the ordeal as “the most terrifying experience of her life”.
The father and daughter sheltered in the back of a shop after they heard grenades go off as terrorists stormed the mall.
“She heard a grenade go off and then her father heard the next one and gunfire,” Ms Williamson said.
“He knew they were under attack and they went into the back room.”
They barricaded themselves with eight other people and tried to stay as quiet as possible.
Ms Williamson was in Nairobi to see her father and study for her impending law exams.
They managed to escape after six hours when armed forces secured the floor they were on.
“They crawled out along the perimeter of the building,” her mum said.
Ms Williamson said her daughter was “so glad to be out” but her thoughts were with the other victims.
“She’s doing really well, she’s heading up to the hospital to donate some blood now,” she said.
“She called me at about 2.30am because she didn’t want me to wake up, see it on the news and panic and wonder where she was.”
Ms Williamson said her daughter was due to stay in Kenya for another month and was still “planning to stay there for a bit”.
Former Australian resident Greg Aldous, a New Zealand national who now lives in Kenya, also escaped the frightening attack after cowering in a box.
Mr Aldous was buying groceries when there was a stampede of people shouting: “They’re shooting, they’re shooting!”
Fearing his white skin would make him a target, he hid for an hour before making a frantic escape through a car park.
“One of the snipers shot a dude about 10 metres away, just a guy, just a waiter,” Mr Aldous said.
“We were petrified, it was a terrifying situation. They were coming in through the front, they were coming in through the back and we were just sitting ducks … They are horrible people.”
About 1000 shoppers were stranded in the mall when the terrorists struck.
Two French women and two Canadians, including a diplomat, are among the dead.