The death toll in an attack on an upmarket mall in Nairobi, Kenya has risen to 59 people and security forces are trying to ensure hostages come out safely, the interior minister said on Sunday, a day after the assault by Somali Islamist gunmen.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters that the government believed there were 10 to 15 attackers, saying they were investigating their identity but would not give details.
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Al-Shabaab, a Somali terror group that has declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack on Westgate mall.
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"We are doing everything reasonably possible to make sure that the hostages who are still in the building come out safely," he said. He had said earlier that he had no "precise details" on whether there were hostages.
"We have indicated that we have information that a good number of attackers are still in the building," he said, saying the government believed there were 10 to 15 gunmen in the mall.
The security forces had been able to "isolate" the attackers, but, the minister said, no communication had yet been established with them.
He said 175 people had been taken to hospital and that more than 1,000 people had been evacuated from the shopping mall.
Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including French, Canadians and Chinese.
The Chinese Embassy in Kenya said in a statement Sunday that a 38-year-old Chinese woman had been killed in the shopping mall "terror attack." Her son was injured in the attack and in a stable condition in hospital, according to the statement posted on the embassy's website.
Kenya's presidential office said that one of the attackers was arrested on Saturday and died after suffering from bullet wounds.
Trucks brought in a fresh contingent of soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces early Sunday.
"Violent extremists continue to occupy Westgate Mall. Security services are there in full force," said the United States embassy in an emergency text message issued Sunday morning.
Daylight brought some good news, as Kenyan media reported that several people in hiding in the mall escaped to safety, suggesting that not everyone who is still inside is being held by al-Shabab.
Cecile Ndwiga said she had been hiding under a car in the basement parking garage.
"I called my husband to ask the soldiers to come and rescue me. Because I couldn't just walk out anyhow. The shootout was all over here - left, right- just gun shots," she said.
Nairobi resident Paolo Abenavoli said he is holed up in his apartment only 100 meters from the mall with a direct view of the entrance. He said he could see a dozen or more security forces inside a first floor restaurant.
"The battle is on now," Abenavoli told The Associated Press by telephone as the fresh gunfire broke out Sunday.
Security forces had pushed curious crowds far back from the mall. Hundreds of residents gathered on a high ridge above the mall to watch for any activity.
Reuters, AP contributed to the report
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