At least 30 people have been killed in a gun attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, witnesses and police have said. Hostages were reportedly taken, with the rebel group al Shabab claiming responsibility.
Gunmen threw grenades and fired gunshots at Nairobi's most upscale shopping center, the Westgate Mall, on Saturday in Kenya, with at least 30 people confirmed dead by the Red Cross and police.
Members of the Kenyan military and police said they had surrounded the attackers on Saturday evening. A gunman involved in the attack was reported to have died of his wounds shortly after being arrested.
The supermarket chain Nakhumatt, which has a store inside the center, said that some shoppers had been taken hostage but no demands had yet been made.
"We have dispatched air surveillance. Police are now in control. We confirm there are armed criminals but we haven't etablished who they are," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Police helicopters circling overhead instructed patrons to "get out, get out."
Wounded in shopping carts
People trapped in the mall, visibly bloodied, were met by first responders as they exited the building. Security guards used shopping carts to wheel out some of the wounded, including children.
Dutch embassy worker Rob Vandijk told the Associated Press news agency he was eating at a restaurant inside the shopping center when attackers threw grenades inside the building before opening fire.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard almost two hours after the shooting started. Police were said to be working their way through the building to find the gunmen.
Retaliation, says Somali group
Several hours later, the Islamist rebel group al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Al Shabab said the Nairobi attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention alongside a UN mandated African Union force in neighboring Somalia.
The group said it had repeatedly warned the Kenyan government of "severe consequences if it did not withdraw its forces."
In a Twitter message, the group said there would be no negotiation with the Kenyan government.
"The Kenyan govt (government) is pleading with our Mujahideen inside the mall for negotiations. There will be no negotiations whatsoever at #Westgate."
The Westgate Mall is located in Nairobi's affluent Westlands area and is often visited by expatriates and wealthy Kenyans.
dr, rc /ipj (Reuters, AFP, AP)