NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 22 – The death toll in the Westgate terror attack has risen to 59 with at least 175 injured according to Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku.
“So far 59 confirmed dead… 175 injured, we have rescued more than 1,000 people,” Lenku said.
He said the situation has been a delicate operation because they wanted to ensure that those still trapped in the mall are safe.
“The situation is very fragile; the area remains a security zone the security agents and support services have done a good job,” he said.
He said that a number of attackers were still in the building, and range between 10 to 15 gunmen.
“We believe there are some innocent people in the building that is why the operation is delicate,” he explained.
He criticised the Sunday Nation which published a photo of one of the victims in excruciating pain on the front page, saying it had brought anguish to their family.
The paper’s Chief Executive Officer Linus Gitahi later issued an apology on Twitter saying, “Kenyans, we made a poor judgement on our front page photo today. We sincerely apologize for the hurt caused.”
Earlier, Kenyan army reinforcements were pouring into the area around the mall early on Sunday as operations to end a stand-off with the Islamist rebels continued.
More than 24 hours after fighters from Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shabaab group stormed the Westgate complex, security officials said they were still trying to kill or capture the remaining gunmen.
Large numbers of soldiers in helmets and flak jackets, some carrying rocket-propelled grenades, could be seen headed towards the mall.
Lenku said the upper floors of the four-storey mall had been secured, and that the attackers had been isolated somewhere on the ground floor or in the basement.
Kenya Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet earlier said that the number of casualties had raised to over 200.
“KDF has taken over the management of the facility for now so we will wait to see what the outcome would be when we start the operation,” he said.
An unknown number of hostages were also still trapped inside, officials said during the night.
The Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Liu Guangyuan said that his country stood firmly with the Kenyan government and people at this difficult time.
Guangyuan says China was shocked by incident and strongly condemned the terrorist attack at Westgate shopping mall.
“We believe the Kenyan government and people will tackle the crisis appropriately and get through the difficulty,” Guangyuan said.
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels claimed responsibility for the attack on the shopping mall.
The militia group said on Twitter that they have killed over a hundred people.
” (@HSM_Press):Since our last contact, the Mujahideen inside the mall confirmed to @HSM_Press that they killed over 100 Kenyan kuffar & battle continues,” Alshabaab tweeted.