Nairobi Westgate attack: what do we know so far?
Britons among the victims killed in the attack on Kenyan shopping centre by al-Shabaab militants
KENYAN security forces are attempting to break up a two-day siege in a Nairobi shopping centre where at least 62 people have been killed and more than 170 injured. A group of Somali al-Shabaab militants stormed the Westgate shopping centre on Saturday and still have a small number of hostages under their control. Here’s what we know so far:
How did it begin? Witnesses say a group of people dressed in black and armed with assault weapons entered Westgate on Saturday afternoon. The shopping centre was packed with shoppers and diners, as well as around 50 pre-school children taking part in a cooking competition. The attackers, who had their heads covered by scarves, threw grenades and fired shots at the crowds. Police, special forces and army soldiers later arrived on the scene, while people inside desperately looked for hiding places to avoid being shot. Around 1,000 people were rescued but hostages still remain in the building.
Who has been killed? At least 62 people have died including four Britons. The UK Foreign Office has warned that the number may rise. American, French, Dutch, South African, Indian and Canadian nationals are also among the dead. A popular Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor, was killed, as well as prize-winning British-Australian architect Ross Langdon and his heavily pregnant partner Elif Yavuz. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's nephew Mbugua Mwangi and fiancee Rosemary Wahito were also killed.
Who are the terrorists? The attackers are believed to be Somali al-Shabaab militants. The movement, which is part of the al-Qaeda network, previously ran much of southern and central Somalia, where it imposed a strict version of Sharia law. It has been pushed out of all of the main towns it once controlled in Somalia, but remains a potent threat. It is not yet clear if all of the Nairobi attackers are male. This morning there was speculation that Samantha Lewthwaite, the 'White Widow' of the 7/7 suicide bomber Jermaine Lindsay, was involved.
What are they hoping to achieve? Al-Shabaab claims it has carried out the attacks in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia. There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011. Witnesses claim the gunmen have allowed Muslims to leave the shopping centre and said that only non-Muslims would be targeted.
Are US and UK citizens among the terrorists? This is unconfirmed. A suspected Al-Shabaab Twitter account, which has now been suspended, claimed that three of the attackers were from the US and one was from the UK. But speaking to BBC Africa, Abu Omar, an Al-Shabaab military commander in Somalia, denied the claims. Security sources told the Daily Telegraph it has not ruled out the suggestion as al-Shabaab is known to include individuals who have travelled from the UK.
What happens now? The Kenyan military, with the support of SAS specialists and British counter-terrorism officials, are trying to free the remaining hostages. It is unknown how many hostages are left but the militants have threatened to kill them if they are put under pressure. There are believed to be 10 attackers inside. Troops have been seen running towards the complex this afternoon, with reports of heavy gunfire and explosions. A plume of black smoke is also billowing from the building. Two of the attackers were killed this morning and others injured, according to Kenya’s interior ministry. Abu Omar has, however, ruled out any negotiations over the hostages and said the militants were prepared to "meet their fate". ·