, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 24 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared that the siege at the Westgate mall is over, as he announced three days of national mourning in honour of those who lost their lives.
Flags will fly at half mast during the mourning period.
“It has not been easy for any of us least of all the affected; our losses are immense. To the honour and memory of those who lost their lives in this attack, I have declared three days of national mourning starting tomorrow (Wednesday) during which official flags will fly half mast throughout the country,” he announced.
He disclosed that 61 civilians lost their lives, while six security personnel who went to the rescue of hostages died.
He further said 62 survivors were admitted to hospitals in Nairobi whereas others had suffered trauma and mild injuries and had been discharged to receive counselling.
The President said forensic teams had moved into the besieged mall to identify the five slain attackers as well as other bodies that may have been trapped inside the building.
“Towards the end of the operation, three floors of the mall collapsed and there are still several bodied trapped including the terrorists,” the President regretted.
He said the forensic team would help to ascertain the nationalities of the attackers, as he acknowledged – but declined to confirm – reports that some of the terrorists were British and American.
“Intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack. We cannot confirm the details at present but forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists,” he said.
Earlier British High Commissioner Christian Turner while confirming that six of those who died in the attack were British nationals said he could not ascertain the nationality of the attackers but urged for patience as investigations continue.
President Kenyatta pledged frequent updates to ensure everyone is informed on the happenings that have left the country in mourning after the Saturday attack.
Eleven suspects were being held in relation to the attack.
“I promise we shall have full accountability for the mindless destruction, deaths, pain, loss and suffering we have all undergone, these cowards will meet justice as well as their accomplices and patrons wherever they are,” he vowed.
While he thanked leaders from other parts of the world who called to comfort and assist, the President urged Kenyans to continue praying and most importantly stay united amidst the attack.
Security around Westgate mall remained tight and a no-go zone even for the media.