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Monday, September 23, 2013

Israeli forces raid Kenya shopping mall to end terrorist siege

Israeli forces have joined efforts in Kenya to end a deadly siege launched by a Somali militia on a Nairobi mall, a security source said on Sunday.

"The Israelis have just entered the premises and are rescuing the hostages and the wounded," the source said.

At least 59 people have been confirmed dead in the Somali militia attack on a luxury shopping mall in Nairobi, a government minister said on Sunday, while Kenyan troops clashed with gunmen still holding an undetermined number of hostages.

Heavy gunfire was heard. Kenyan security officials said that they were trying to kill or capture the remaining attackers and end the 24 hour bloodbath in the Westgate Mall.

Among the dead were renowned poet and Ghanaian statesman Kofi Awoonor. Al-Qaida inspired al-Shabaab rebels in Somalia said the killing in the Israeli owned property was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are fighting Islamists.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said 59 people died.

"A number of attackers are still in the building, ranging from 10 to 15 armed men," he said in a statement. "We believe there are some innocent people in the building, that is why the operation is delicate," he said.

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A Kenyan security official says Israeli forces have entered a shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, where Somali militants have already killed dozens of people and an unknown number of hostages are still being held.

Local security officials say the Israeli forces have joined Kenyans to end the deadly mall siege on Sunday. The Kenyan troops backed by Israeli forces are now battling against gunmen holding dozens of people hostage inside the shopping mall for the second day.

"The Israelis have just entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured," media outlets quoted an unnamed senior Kenyan security source as saying.

Kenyan military spokesman noted that a large number of well-equipped forces are fighting the assailants that attacked the mall, killing nearly 60 people and injuring some 200 more. "We are still battling with the attackers and our forces have managed to maroon the attackers on one of the floors," said Colonel Cyrus Oguna, adding, "We hope to bring this to an end today."

There are reports of sporadic gunfire inside the mall as Kenyan forces try to kill or capture the remaining 10 to 15 gunmen who are holding about 70 people hostage.

The carnage on Saturday started when gunmen stormed the Westgate Mall in an upscale neighborhood, throwing hand grenades and indiscriminately firing at people.

Somalia's al-Shabab fighters have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says he has lost family members in the deadly attack. He also vowed to bring perpetrators and attackers to justice for targeting innocent civilians "Let me make it clear. We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get them. We shall punish them for this heinous crime," Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation late Saturday.

The attack was the worst in Nairobi since an al-Qaeda bombing at the US Embassy killed over 200 people in 1998.