UPDATE — 3:22 PM ET, 9/22/13: Kenyan military spokesperson Colonel Cyrus Oguna confirmed that “most of the hostages have been released, and the Kenya Defence Forces has taken control of most parts of the building” where at least 68 people were killed.
At least four American citizens were injured in the attack in Kenya, the US State Department said in a statement.
Renowned Ghanian poet and statesman Kofi Awooner was killed in the attack. Awoone was in Nairobi to perform at the Storymoja Hay Festival, “a four-day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling.”
UPDATE — 10:53 AM ET, 9/22/13: Kenya President, Uhuru Kenyatta, reports that his nephew and his nephew’s fiancee were killed in the terrorist attack on Westgate Mall.
“Soon we will severely punish the organizers,” said President Kenyatta. “They have to pay for their unworthy and brutal actions.”
(AP) — The Kenyan military remained in a tense standoff with Islamic extremists Sunday, as the toll rose to 59 dead, including children, and 175 wounded in the attack at an upscale mall, a Kenyan minister said.
Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where hostages are being held by militants. The radicals attacked the mall Saturday and remained inside throughout the night.
Kenya’s Red Cross said in a statement citing police that 49 people had been reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could form the basis of the number of people held hostage.
“The priority is to save as many lives as possible,” Joseph Lenku said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the upscale Westgate mall. Kenyan forces have already rescued about 1,000 people, he said.
Ten to 15 attackers remain in the mall and Kenyan forces control the security cameras inside the shopping center, Lenku said. Combined military and police forces surrounded the mall in the Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi, which is frequented by foreigners and wealthy Kenyans. An Associated Press photographer saw Kenyan soldiers carry into the mall a rocket-propelled grenade, an extremely heavy weapon for an indoor hostage situation.
Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters at the mall that he has been told officials couldn’t determine the exact number of hostages inside the mall.
“There are quite a number of people still being held hostage on the third floor and the basement area where the terrorists are still in charge,” Odinga said.
Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack in which they used grenades and assault rifles and specifically targeted non-Muslims. The rebels said the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into Somalia and threatened more attacks.
Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including British, French, Canadians and Chinese.
See dramatic footage from inside Westgate below. (TRIGGER WARNING: Mass shooting, violence, guns)