At least FIFTEEN people are reported to be dead as a gun fight continues between police as well as armed men at a shopping centre in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
One witness claimed gunmen informed Muslims to stand up and leave and that only non-Muslims would be targeted.
Security guards were seen wheeling out bloodstained bodies in shopping trolleys from upmarket mall in the Westlands district of the city, witnesses stated, after the attack that broke out at midday today.
Locals as well as tourists who had come out shopping on the sunny Saturday morning ran screaming from the building and also cars were left abandoned as attackers threw grenades as well as fired AK47s.
Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Guled informed Reuters: ”I would state so far we have at least 15 dead. The casualties are many, and that’s only what we have on the outside.”
At least 9 people were carried out of the building bleeding from wounds to their limbs as well as 2 others were wheeled unconscious from the scene in shopping trolleys.
A young boy is believed to have been amongst those killed.
There were unconfirmed reports of 2 large explosions, with several smaller explosions. 2 people were reportedly injured on the road.
”We have officers at the scene attempting to get out the group shooting inside. They have not been located,’ a senior police official stated.
”Officers are approaching the scenario with caution because there are innocent civilians inside,” he stated.
Police officers arrived about a half an hour after about 5 armed assailants stormed the building, witnesses say, as well as took cover behind vehicles outside.
Dutch embassy employee Rob Vandijk stated he had been eating at a restaurant in the shopping mall when gunmen threw hand grenades inside the building, before machine-gun fire rang out and people began to drop to the ground.
Officials have not given the exact death toll as police as well as gunmen are continuing to exchange fire, but reporters said they had seen at least FIFTEEN bodies.
Police initially believed the attack was an attempt by about ten armed men to rob a shop.
But Nairobi police chief Benson Kibue has now stated it was a terrorist attack.
Elijah Kamau, a witness, informed AP that the gunmen had announced that they were targeting non-Muslims as they began their attack at the centre.
”They don’t seem like thugs, this is not a robbery incident,” stated Yukeh Mannasseh who was on the top floor when the shooting began.
”It seems like an attack. The guards who saw them stated they were shooting indiscriminately’.’
Somali’s rebel group al-Shabab promised in late 2011 to carry out a large-scale attack in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya’s sending of troops into Somalia to fight the Islamic insurgents.
”The gunmen attempted to fire at my head but missed. There are definitely many casualties,” Sudjar Singh, who works at the shopping centre, informed AFP.
”I saw 3 of the attackers dressed in black and with covered faces and they were carrying heavy rifles,” stated another witness.
Errol Fernandes, a Kenyan businessman stated: ”There were 2 guys – they came in from the car park on the roof. One had dreadlocks, he had an AK47 and was firing randomly.
”I just ran into the café kitchen and then we all hid in the refrigerator, until we were told to run out of the fire escape.
”I’m sure there must be many dead and injured.”
”The gunmen tried to fire at my head but missed. There are definitely many casualties,’ Sudjar Singh, who works at the shopping centre, informed AFP.
”I saw 3 of the attackers dressed in black and with covered faces and they were carrying heavy rifles,’ stated another witness.
Police state that attackers are holding hostages in the building, and a number of other bystanders are said to be still trapped inside.
A Reuters photographer stated armed police were searching for more members of the gang as sporadic gunfire continues.
Attacks by Somali Islamists in Kenya often involve gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades, with targets including bars, nightclubs and restaurants in various parts of the country.
There was a suspected al-Shabaab attack which left five dead and 3 injured at a restaurant in the eastern city of Garissa in January, and in August last year one person was killed and six more were left injured in the Eastleigh area of Nairobi on the eve of a visit by Hillary Clinton, then the United States secretary of state.
Last month EIGHTEEN of the NINETEEN US embassies and consulates across the Middle East and Africa were closed after a message between al Qaida officials about plans for a major terror attack was intercepted.
The Foreign Office states it is ”urgently looking into” the incident and has echoed Kenyan police with warnings to Britons to avoid the area.
Compiled by Nigeria News Papers Online