Nairobi attack: Kenya mourns Westgate siege victims

Nairobi attack: Kenya mourns Westgate siege victims

25 September 2013 Last updated at 14:37

Armoured troops have moved in to clear the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, from where Mike Wooldridge reports

Kenya has begun three days of national mourning following the end of the four-day siege by Islamist militants on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said 72 people had died, including six security personnel and five militants.

Eleven people have been arrested in connection with the attack.

Al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said 137 hostages had died, but the statement cannot be verified.

Across Kenya, flags flew at half mast, as grieving friends and relatives continued to hold funerals for victims of the attack.

As the clearing of the mall continues, the death toll is expected to rise.

Several bodies, including those of some attackers, are thought to be trapped under rubble after three floors of the building collapsed following a blaze.

Kenya’s Standard newspaper reported that dozens of bodies were removed from the building on Tuesday evening.

The building has been sealed off as forensic experts collect evidence.

The BBC’s Will Ross reports from Nairobi that for most Kenyans there is relief that the siege is over and on the first of three days of mourning the hustle and bustle is returning to Nairobi’s streets.

‘Cowards will meet justice’

In his address late on Tuesday, the president praised the response of ordinary Kenyans, calling it exemplary and overwhelming.

“We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” he said. “Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed.”

He did not confirm earlier reports that several of the attackers were American and British.

“Intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack,” said Mr Kenyatta.

New footage from inside Westgate shows a family being rescued

“We cannot confirm the details at present. Forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists.”

He added: “These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are.”

The UK Foreign Office said that one British national had been arrested in Nairobi, but the British High Commissioner, Christian Turner, later said it was “not of significant interest” to the Westgate inquiry.

Mary Italo mourns the death of her son, Nairobi, 25 September 2013
Relatives have been identifying the bodies of those killed in the attack
Alyaz Merali, who was injured in the attack, 25 September 2013
Alyaz Merali, wounded in the attack, took part in a funeral procession for his mother, who was killed
Traders sell wreaths outside Nairobi's City Mortuary, 25 September 2013
Traders were selling wreaths outside Nairobi’s City Mortuary
Nuns pray in Nairobi, 25 September 2013
Nuns prayed near the Westgate shopping centre on Wednesday morning

Our correspondent reports that there are many unanswered questions, including whether any of those arrested were ever inside the shopping centre.

A tweet from Kenya’s interior ministry said they had been detained at the airport, and were being held for questioning.

At least 18 foreigners are among the dead. They include six Britons as well as citizens from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.

About 175 people were wounded, including 62 who remain in hospital.

“Now it is for the forensic and criminal experts,” said police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi.

Survivor Lynsey Khatau: “I want to take my family home”

Somali Islamist group al-Shabab said it had carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan army operations in Somalia.

The militants stormed the Westgate centre on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately at shoppers and staff.

Twitter posts on an al-Shabab account said the group’s militants had held 137 people hostage, and claimed the hostages had died after security forces fired chemical agents to end the siege.

The posts could not be verified. A government spokesman denied any chemical agents were used, and authorities called on Kenyans to ignore militant propaganda.

Both sides blamed the other for causing part of the shopping centre to collapse.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia.

There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia as part of an African Union force supporting Somali government forces.

Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.

Traders at a local market said they were “scared” and “disturbed” by the attacks

Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.

UN special representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay called on Tuesday for a fresh surge in African troops to Somalia to counter an estimated 5,000 al-Shabab fighters.