Three gunmen shot dead as security agents step up battle to break siege
Last updated on 24 Sep 2013 00:19
|Policemen take cover outside outside the mall. Kenyan troops have cleared large swathes of the building from the basement to the fourth ?oor. [PHOTO: AFP]|
By Standard Team
KENYA: Bursts of gun?re and loud explosions rang out as security forces battled to break the siege on Westgate Mall by terrorists on Day Three.
A plume of black smoke billowed from the building after a fire broke out reportedly triggered by grenade explosions set off by the terrorists at around 1 pm.
And 50-hours since suspected al-Shabaab gunmen stormed the up-market shopping centre in Nairobi’s Westlands, some shoppers who were holed up in the building, including a university student, were rescued.
Security forces freed the Moi University second year student at about 1pm. He had hidden up in the ceiling. Though frightened after the horrific ordeal, he was, however, lucky to escape with his life with only an injury to his lip.
Authorities reported three gunmen were killed in the gunfight yesterday. The multi-agency force stepped up efforts to break the siege on the building, where terrorists struck on Saturday morning, killing over 60 people and injuring over 175.
The Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Gen Julius Karangi attributed the thick smoke to a “distraction by the gunmen attempting to escape.” “If they wish they can now surrender because we have no intention whatsoever of going backwards,” Gen Karangi warned.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku added: “The position of the fire is in Nakumatt stores”, he said, also pointing out that it was caused by the terrorists holed up in the building “to try and distract us.”
Gen Karangi said the troops had cleared large swathes of the building from the basement to the fourth floor. “We are in control of all the floors, and are now in the process of sanitising these areas, ” he said. He noted however that security forces were treading cautiously as some terrorists could be hiding in secluded areas, including washrooms.
The terrorists were believed to be holed up in a section of the four-floor mall inside a bank and a private office with bulletproof glass.
Sources said authorities were investigating the possibility that the attackers had rented a shop in the mall for some time given their apparent knowledge of the building.
The lunchtime gun battle occurred minutes before the attackers detonated at least three grenades, apparently inside the Nakumatt supermarket, that was followed by a heavy cloud of smoke.
Cabinet Secretary Lenku said the number of missing people had “significantly declined” and more hostages had been evacuated. He, however, did not give the specific number of the missing.
“The process of evacuating the hostages has gone very well and there are very [few] hostages still trapped in the building,” he said, adding that the Kenyan troops “were in control of the situation.”