Nairobi/New Delhi/Addis Ababa, Sep 22: Up to 15 gunmen continued to hold a number of hostages at a popular shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi Sunday, a day after launching a deadly attack in retaliation for the east African country’s military action against Somali militant group Al Shabaab.
Nearly 50 people remain unaccounted for in a tense standoff between Kenyan security forces and Al-Shabaab suspects at the Westgate shopping mall, Xinhua reported citing Kenya Red Cross sources.
At least 59 people, including two Indians, have been killed and 175 others wounded after the gunmen stormed the upscale shopping mall, Cabinet Secretary in charge of Internal Security Joseph Ole Lenku told journalists in Nairobi earlier in the day.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the gunmen also killed one of his nephews and his fiancee.
In New Delhi, officials Sunday named the Indians killed as Sridhar Natarajan, 40, from Tamil Nadu and an employee of a local pharmaceutical firm Harley’s Limited; and Paramshu Jain, eight, the son of Manoj Jain, the branch manager of Industrial Area Branch, Bank of Baroda (Kenya Limited).
Natarajan’s wife Manjula Sridhar was injured in the militant attack, while the mother and sister of Paramshu – Mukta Jain, 38, and Poorvi Jain, 12 – were also injured.
The fourth injured is Natarajan Ramachandran, an employee of Flamingo Duty Free, Nairobi, according to official sources.
Senior officers of the Indian high commission in Nairobi, including High Commissioner Sibabrata Tripathi, were present in the two major medical facilities that received casualties during the day — the Aga Khan University Hospital and M.P. Shah Hospital, the sources added.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday wrote to Kenyan President Kenyatta, condemning the “heinous and senseless” terrorist attack.
While offering deep condolences to the bereaved families, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was confident Kenya “will have the strength and resilience to deal with this tragedy and respond firmly to the forces of terror”.
“We stand ready to assist you in your efforts,” the prime minister stated.
“I was deeply shocked and saddened by the brutal terror attack yesterday on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. This incident is a stark reminder that the persisting menace of terrorism remains a formidable challenge that calls for a concerted and sustained response from the global community. India condemns in the strongest terms this heinous and senseless assault, which has snuffed out so many innocent lives, including nationals of both our countries,” Singh wrote.
Among the other slain foreigners were two French nationals, two Canadians, three Britons, one Chinese and one Ghanaian.
While the Kenyan special force was called in to back up police to zero in on the attackers inside the building, Israeli officials said they had sent anti-terror experts to the scene to help end the siege.
Interpol said Sunday it has offered to deploy an incident response team consisting of specialised forensic officers, anti-terror experts and analysts after the mall attack in Kenya.
Kenya has tightened security across the country and along the borders, especially in areas bordering Somalia.
Police confirmed Sunday that five Kenyan youths from the coastal city of Mombasa, who were due to join the militant group Al-Shabaab in Somalia, have been arrested.
The African Union (AU) Sunday strongly condemned the attack, vowing to counter terrorism throughout the continent.
“Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the AU Commission, has condemned in the strongest possible terms the dastardly terrorist attacks last Saturday against innocent civilians in a Nairobi shopping mall, which caused the loss of many lives,” Xinhua quoted a statement issued Sunday as saying.
Dlamini-Zuma committed sustained efforts to counter terrorism throughout Africa, stabilise the situation in Somalia and fight by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in the Horn of Africa against the Al Shabaab.