Kenya: Americans, Woman Among Mall Attackers

Military still trying to clear building
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2013 4:41 AM CDT
Updated Sep 24, 2013 7:03 AM CDT
Local imams and Muslim leaders in Minneapolis, home to America's largest Somali community, stand in solidarity to speak out against extremism in the Nairobi shopping mall attack    (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Richard Tsong-Taatarii)
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(Newser) – Is the siege of Nairobi's Westgate Mall finally near an end? Kenyan authorities say they believe all the hostages have been released, but journalists from the AP and Reuters heard yet more gunfire and explosions as the Kenyan military moved through the building. Officials say the military is going from floor to floor and room to room in the darkened building searching for surviving militants, the Los Angeles Times reports. Somalia's al-Shabab militant group tweeted early today that its fighters "are still holding their ground" and their captives are "still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive."

In other developments:

  • Kenya's foreign minister told PBS Newshour last night that two or three Americans were involved in the attack. She said they were of Arab or Somali origin, 18 or 19 years old, and had lived "in Minnesota and one other place" in the US. She said a British woman who had "done this many times before" was also involved, contradicting another minister's statement that all the attackers were men. Security officials and soldiers told Reuters that a white woman was among the attackers killed, though they couldn't confirm whether she was Samantha Lewthwaite, the al-Shabab-linked widow of a British terrorist.
  • The State Department says that it is investigating reports that Americans were involved, but "at this point we have no definitive evidence of the nationalities or identities of the perpetrators," the Washington Post reports. Witnesses say most of the attackers were young and shouted to each other in English.
  • British officials say they will not discuss the identity of the attackers while the investigation continues, reports the BBC. Officials say at least six attackers have been killed and around 10 more captured. The civilian body count stands at 62, but the Red Cross says 63 people are still unaccounted for.
  • In Minnesota, home to America's largest Somali community, Muslim leaders refused to comment on reports that Somali Americans were involved in the attack but spoke firmly against extremism, the Star Tribune reports. The attackers "do not represent any religion, they do not represent any community, they do not represent any nationality," one imam said. "They are an organized group of criminals who have conspired to kill and destroy innocent lives. They are nothing but criminals. They are not ­Muslims."
(Read more al-Shabab stories.)

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