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Nairobi siege: What we know

At least 62 people have been killed and more than 175 injured in an attack by militants on a shopping centre in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Some people managed to escape amid chaotic scenes, while others were held hostage in a supermarket by the al-Shabab militants.

Eyewitness accounts

The multi-storey, upmarket Westgate shopping centre, owned by an Israeli businessman, has restaurants, cafes, banks, a large supermarket and a cinema.

The mall was packed with shoppers and people sitting down to lunch on Saturday.

On the second floor of the three-story building, near the roof car park, a cooking competition for about 50 preschool-aged children was also under way.

Witnesses sitting outside ArtCaffe on the ground floor said that a group of people armed with assault weapons and dressed in black drove up by the main entrance at about noon (09:00 GMT).

Their exact number is not clear – it is estimated there were between six and 16 – some witnesses say they were masked others describe them as wearing bandanas or with scarves over their faces.

Eyewitnesses saw armed men in black, their heads covered in scarves, entering the Westgate shopping centre on Saturday afternoon

They threw grenades and fired shots. Some people were killed outside the building before the gunmen stormed the mall through the main entrance.

“There was shooting on the ground floor and slowly slowly they were going up and up,” a survivor said after escaping.

It is not clear if the militants all entered through the main entrance.

Surajit Borkakoty was having a coffee with his wife on the second floor, where there is a food court, when he heard continuous shooting coming from the floors below.

He said he and his wife ran out of the cafe towards the second floor car park – but someone started firing on the rooftop too, so they ran back to the cafe to hide in the kitchens.

Police arrive

At first the shootout was believed to be a robbery. Police took about half an hour to arrive at the scene. There is a police station nearby, but the midday traffic was heavy.

As people escaped from the mall doubt was raised about reports that the incident was a robbery.

Police take cover outside Westgate shopping centre where gunmen went on a shooting spree in Nairobi on 21 September 2013.
Police and security forces surrounded the Westgate centre

Witnesses trapped inside said the gunshots were continuous and people desperately began looking for hiding places, where many stayed for hours.

Hannah Chisholm told the BBC she was at the checkout in the mall’s main supermarket when the firing began: “We kept running to places but the shots were getting louder, so we managed to run to a large storeroom where the doors were barricaded.”

“We hid in boxes and we tried to escape when they said it was safe, we almost made it to the door when they started firing again so we ran back up.”

Shopping trolleys were reportedly used by security guards to wheel out several of the wounded, including children.

Security forces begin sweep

About an hour into the siege, the security forces entered the building. They moved through the mall – checking each business for people hiding and searching for gunmen.

“It seemed like everywhere you went, there were more people who just appeared out of the woodwork,” said New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks,who accompanied police for a couple of hours.

He said some dead bodies could be seen lying on the floor, but he did not see any of the attackers.

Footage from inside the mall shows the aftermath of the shootout

As police swept through the aisles of the supermarket, they fired into the ceiling believing militants might be using the ventilation system.

By this time special forces and army soldiers had also arrived at the shopping centre to join the police operation.

A helicopter and armoured vehicles were at the scene. Police told media to stop broadcasting from the scene, as information could be aiding the attackers.




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