At least 59 people have been confirmed dead and 175 injured as the terrorist siege on the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, Kenya continues. Joseph Ole Lenku, the cabinet secretary in charge of the Interior ministry, says says a joint operation is still ongoing to rescue several people still trapped in the mall.
According to Kenya security more than 5000 people have been rescued from the mall since the suspected terror attack began at midday on Saturday. Joseph Ole Lenku, the cabinet secretary in charge of the Interior ministry says some of the injured people have been treated and discharged to return to their homes.
Ole Lenku says a joint team of security is still working tirelessly to rescue several people still trapped in the mall and isolate the attackers. At least four hostages were rescued by 1pm this afternoon. He says they have also established that there are between 10 and 15 attackers. Details of the operation show that the attackers have been pushed to the third and fourth floor. Olelenku has appealed to Kenyans to remain calm saying security is in charge of the situation.
Government has also set up a desk at Oshwal centre to counsel and provide information to relatives of the victims of the attack. The Somalia based Alshabab militants have since claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, thousands of Kenyans have responded to the call by the Kenya Redcross Society and Kenya National blood transfusion to donate blood. According to Kenya Redcross Society, they have been overwhelmed by the turn out.
By this afternoon more than 530 units of blood had already been collected.
Joe Ole Lenku said 1,000 people had managed to escape from the Westgate Centre after the assault by suspected al-Shabab militants on Saturday.
Lenku added that between 10 to 15 attackers were still in the building holding an unspecified number of people hostage. Al-Shabab has claimed there are at least 36 hostages, but this cannot be independently confirmed and there are also likely to be people hiding away from the attackers.
There is a heavy military presence both in and around the shopping centre, and sporadic gunfire can be heard from inside.
There are reports that the gunmen are currently holed up in a supermarket.
Early on Sunday morning, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed to hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to".
Al-Shabab, a militant group controlling parts of Somalia, told the BBC it carried out the attack on the upmarket shopping centre in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia. Kenya has about 4,000 troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011. Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Sierra Leone are the other countries with troops in Somalia under the African Union force.
Kenyans are turning up in big numbers to donate blood in Nairobi to help those injured.
The siege began at about midday on Saturday, when the attackers entered the Westgate centre throwing grenades and firing automatic weapons. A children's day event was being held at the time and children are among those reported killed.
Al-Shabab, which is part of the al-Qaeda network, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if the country did not pull its troops out of Somalia.
Messages of support are coming in from Somalia, South Sudan, China, the United Kingdom and the United States among others. The Chinese ambassador to Kenya Liu Guangyuan issued statement saying; "the Chinese government is shocked and strongly condemns the terrorist attack at Westgate Shopping Mall, and wishes to express deep condolences to the victims and profound sympathy to the wounded and the deceased’s family.”
The top Muslim leadership in the country issued a statement and condemns the attacks at the Westgate mall. There had earlier been reports from survivors that the attackers were allowing Muslims to get out of the shopping mall.
Reports from State House Entebbe indicate that President Kenyatta will be joined by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga for a press conference at 3pm on Sunday.