December 6, 2013
Kenya says hostages freed in al Shabaab mall siege
Kenya said its security forces had taken control of the Nairobi shopping mall where Islamist fighters killed at least 62 people, and that police were doing a final sweep of shops after the last of the hostages had been rescued.
Somalia's al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which began at lunchtime on Saturday. Kenyan officials say there were 10 to 15 attackers.
President Barack Obama offered US support, saying he believed Kenya - the scene of one of al Qaeda's first major attacks, in 1998, and a neighbour of chaotic Somalia - would continue to be a regional pillar of stability.
Kenyan security forces believed the end was in sight for the siege at the upmarket shopping mall in the capital, saying its forces were "in control" as the ordeal entered its fourth day.
A government official said there was no resistance from the attackers late on Monday night after a barrage of gunfire and blasts throughout the day, but that the security forces were cautious in case some attackers were hiding in the building.
"Our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind. We believe all hostages have been released," the Ministry of Interior said.
The siege has followed a pattern of bursts of gunfire and activity followed by long lulls.
Patronised by well-to-do Kenyans and expatriates, Westgate mall epitomised the African consumer bonanza that is drawing foreign investment - from West and East - to one of the world's fastest growing regions.
Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, said the United States stood with Kenyans against "this terrible outrage".
"We will provide them with whatever law enforcement support that is necessary. And we are confident that Kenya will continue to be a pillar of stability in eastern Africa," he said in New York.
British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he believed six Britons had died in the attack. Other known foreign victims are from China, Ghana, France, the Netherlands and Canada. Kenyan officials said the total death toll was at least 62.