Al Shabaab Islamist Gunmen Hold Hostages In Kenya Siege, 68 Dead

Islamist militants were holding hostages on Sunday at a shopping mall in Nairobi, where at least 68 people were killed in an attack by Somalia's al Shabaab group.
The al Qaeda-affiliated movement demanded Kenya pull troops out of its northern neighbor, where they have pushed al Shabaab onto the defensive over the past two years.

There was no word of other demands from the dozen or so gunmen - and possibly women - said to be barricaded in a supermarket with an unknown number of captives. One Kenyan TV station said 30 were still being held, nearly 36 hours after Saturday's devastating assault.

Brief volleys of gunfire and a blast interrupted a day of stalemate. A Reuters correspondent saw security personnel on the move and, as dusk closed in, two helicopters swooped low over the Westgate shopping center, which has several Israeli-owned outlets and is frequented by prosperous Kenyans and foreigners.

But despite a Twitter comment from a Kenyan security agency suggesting an imminent operation, the evening passed with little sign of action.

Kenya's president, vowing not to abandon the "war on terror" in Somalia, was cautious about the outcome, saying only that the chances of the attackers being "neutralized" were "as good ... as we can hope for".

"We will punish the masterminds swiftly and painfully," he said. In addition to the dead, more than 175 people were wounded in an attack that began around the middle of the day on Saturday, when the mall was heaving with customers.

Previous such raids, in Russia, the 2008 Mumbai attacks or January's al Qaeda assault on an Algerian gas plant, have generally ended with many hostages losing their lives.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, confirming at least three Britons were dead, said: "We should prepare ourselves for further bad news."

U.S. President Barack Obama called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to express condolences for the "terrorist attack" and offered support to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Dutch and Chinese citizens were also killed in the attack claimed by al shabaab, as were a French mother and daughter and two diplomats from Canada and Ghana. U.S. citizens were wounded.

For hours after Saturday's attack, the dead had been strewn around tables of unfinished meals. At one burger restaurant, a man and woman lay in a final embrace before their bodies were removed. Only after Kenyan forces moved in could many shoppers escape, some after a full day hiding in terror.

The focus of attention on Sunday was the mall's branch of Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya's biggest chains. A Red Cross volunteer said nine more bodies were taken out of the store late on Sunday, which the Red Cross said raised the toll to 68.

Volunteers said they believed more corpses were still inside, unreachable for now.
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