At least thirty-nine people have been killed and almost a hundred have been injured, following a terrorist attack in the exclusive Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday.
The gunmen apparently burst into the 350,000 sq-foot shopping complex— which describes itself as "Nairobi’s premier shopping mall" — at around midday Saturday, armed with guns and grenades, in what appears to be terrorist attack, rather than an armed robbery. According to CNN, the assailants opened fire on the shoppers indiscriminately, and took at least 36 people hostage.
One witness said to the The Telegraph : "There were two guys, they had AK47s, they were not far from me. They were dressed in normal clothes. They had something like a small bomb, maybe a grenade, and I watched one throw it into where many people were."
"I didn't see where it landed but the explosion was so loud. I ran out," he added.
Policemen arrived at the scene armed with guns but wary of storming in, warning people to stay away from the shopping mall.
"Officers are approaching the situation with caution because there are innocent civilians inside," police official told AFP news agency.
According to State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, U.S. citizens were among those injured in the attack, although details have yet to be released. "The U.S. Embassy is actively reaching out to provide assistance," she added.
Several hours after the assault began, the Somali militant group, Al Shaabab, took responsibility for the assault via their twitter account. Soon after, the White House released a statement condemning "the despicable terrorist attack," saying also that "the perpetrators of this heinous act must be brought to justice."
Al-Shaabab has previously issued public threats against Kenya — and Westgate mall in particular — because of the state's military intervention in Somalia. On June 9, the group attacked a church compound in the Easleigh district of Nairobi, injuring dozens.