Zipporah Mureithi, 34, centre, is helped by relatives as she weeps after identifying the body of her father Paul, 56, at the city morgue in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday Sept. 24 2013. / AP Photo/ Jerome Delay
NAIROBI, Kenya Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says security forces have finally defeated a small group of al Qaeda-linked terrorists terrorists after four days in fighting at a Nairobi mall.
In a televised address to the nation Tuesday, Kenyatta said “we have ashamed and defeated our attackers.”
He said the attack had left 240 casualties, including 61 dead civilians and six of his security forces. He said five terrorists were killed and another 11 suspects have been taken into custody.
The president says three floors of the Westgate mall collapsed and that there are “several bodies still trapped in the rubble including the terrorists.”
He declared three days of national mourning.
Earlier, Kenyan officials insisted in briefings that there were few, if any hostages left inside, reported CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata. Al-Shabab, however, said the captured civilians were, “still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive.”Earlier, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said “two or three Americans” and “one Brit” were among those who attacked the mall.
She said in an interview with the PBS “NewsHour” program that the Americans were 18 to 19 years old, of Somali or Arab origin and lived “in Minnesota and one other place” in the U.S. The attacker from Britain was a woman who has “done this many times before,” Mohamed said.
U.S. officials said they were looking into whether any Americans were involved. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the department had “no definitive evidence of the nationalities or the identities” of the attackers.
The assault was carried out Saturday by some 12 to 15 al-Shabab militants wielding grenades and firing on civilians inside the mall, which includes shops for such retail giants as Nike, Adidas and Bose and is popular with foreigners and wealthy Kenyans.
The militants specifically targeted non-Muslims, and at least 18 foreigners were among the dead, including six Britons, as well as citizens from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China. Nearly 200 people were wounded, including five Americans.
Fighters from an array of nations participated in the assault, according to Kenya’s Chief of Defense forces Gen. Julius Karangi. “We have an idea who these people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world,” he said.
Al-Shabab, whose name means “The Youth” in Arabic, said the mall attack was in retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into neighboring Somalia. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 al-Qaeda truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, which killed more than 200 people.
An extremist Islamic terrorist force that grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a longtime dictator in 1991, al-Shabab is estimated to have several thousand fighters, including a few hundred foreigners, among them militants from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Others are young, raw recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.
For years, Minnesota has been the center of a federal investigation into the recruiting of fighters for al-Shabab. Authorities say about two dozen young men have left Minnesota since 2007 to join the group. Minnesota’s Somali community is the largest in the U.S.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the attack showed that al-Shabab was a threat not just to Somalia but to the international community.
Mohamed, the Kenyan foreign minister, said her country needs to work with other governments to fight the increasing terrorist threat and “much more with the U.S and the U.K., because both the victims and the perpetrators came from Kenya, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“That just goes to underline the global nature of this war that we are fighting,” she said.
Reports that some of the attackers may have been Somalis who lived in the United States illustrate the global nature of the militant group, the Somali leader said in a speech at Ohio State University. “Today, there are clear evidences that Shabab is not a threat to Somalia and Somali people only,” he said. “They are a threat to the continent of Africa, and the world at large.”
As the crisis passed the 48-hour mark, a video emerged that was taken by someone inside the mall’s main department store when the assault began. It showed frightened and unsure shoppers crouching as long, loud volleys of gunfire could be heard.
Kenyans in many parts of the country stood in long lines Monday to donate blood to aid the nearly 200 people injured in the attack. Fundraisers raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, though government officials warned of scam artists taking advantage of the tragedy.