Originally published on September 24, 2013
Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group said on Tuesday there were "countless dead bodies" in a Kenyan shopping mall as security forces searched for militants still holed up in the complex after a weekend attack that authorities say killed 62 people.
The al Qaeda-linked attackers are believed by Western sources to include Americans and possibly a British woman who may be the widow of a suicide bomber who took part in an attack in London in 2005. Al Shabaab in Somalia rejected suggestions that foreigners were involved.
A burst of gunfire in the early morning broke hours of calm on the fourth day since the militants stormed into the Westgate center in Nairobi during a busy Saturday lunchtime, spraying bullets and lobbing grenades.
Helicopters buzzed over the complex, which is popular with foreigners and prosperous Kenyans. Al Shabaab says it launched the attack in pursuit of demands that Kenya withdraw troops from Somalia, where they have battled the Islamist group. President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to stay the course there.
The attack has come at a time when several violent Islamist groups from Mali to Algeria, Nigeria to Kenya - tapping into local grievances but all espousing an anti-Western, anti-Christian creed - are striking at state authority and international interests.
"There are still gunmen in the building," said an intelligence officer, who asked not to be named, speaking in the morning near the mall, which is surrounded by troops. Asked if there were still hostages, he said: "We are not sure yet."
Al Shabaab said its militants were still holding out in the Westgate center and hostages they were holding were still alive.
"There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the Mujahideen (fighters) are still holding their ground #Westgate," the group said on its Twitter feed.
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