Possible terrorists kill shoppers, reportedly take hostages in Nairobi
Gunmen opened fire Saturday at an elite shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, killing shoppers and reportedly taking others hostage. Kenyan police called the shootings a terrorist attack, with witnesses reporting that the gunmen targeted non-Muslims.
Reports of the dead varied from about 10 to 15 people at the Westgate mall, popular with wealthy Kenyans and expatriates.
“We are treating this as a terrorist attack,” Police Chief Benson Kibue told reporters.
Police said the gunmen were holding at least seven people hostage, according to Agence France Presse.
Dozens of shoppers fled after about five gunmen ran into the mall, threw a grenade and opened fire midday Saturday. The Kenyan Red Cross Society reported that 15 people had been killed, with dozens more wounded.
“The casualties are many, and that’s only what we have on the outside,” Kenyan Red Cross Society spokesman Abbas Guled told Reuters. “Inside there are even more casualties and shooting is still going on.”
There was speculation that the violence might be linked to the Somali terrorist group Al Shabab, which has carried out grenade attacks, shootings and bombings in Nairobi, after Kenya sent its army into Somalia against the Al Qaeda-linked militants two years ago.
Gunmen were targeting non-Muslims and ordered Muslims to leave the mall when the attack started, according to Elijah Kamau, who was in the mall at the time, the Associated Press reported.
“The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted,” he said.
Kenyan Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo told local media that the rescued hostages were being screened for possible links to the attackers: “We are not taking chances, and rescued hostages are screened,” the Nation newspaper reported him as saying.
The gunmen appeared to have entered the mall through a cafe with an outdoor seating area.
“We started by hearing gunshots downstairs and outside. Later we heard them come inside. We took cover. Then we saw two gunmen wearing black turbans. I saw them shoot,” said an employee at the cafe, Patricia Kuria, AP reported.
After the attacks, terrified shoppers trapped in the mall took shelter in shops and a movie theater.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.