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39 killed in Kenya shopping mall attack
Sunday September 22, 2013 7:25 AM, IANS

As many as 39 were killed in an attack on an upmarket shopping mall in Kenya's national capital Saturday, raising concern and drawing global condemnation.

A security operation to rescue people from the popular mall, frequented by wealthy Kenyans and foreigners, was still underway till last report, Xinhua reported.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta condemned the attack for which Somalia-based militant group Al Shabab has claimed responsibility. The group has described it as an act to avenge Nairobi's military support to UN mission in Somalia.

The militant group claimed its gunmen had killed "more than 100" people inside the shopping centre thus far in retaliation for the Kenyan military's participation in the UN mission in Somalia, EFE reported. Kenya's armed forces are backing the Somali government against Islamist militias such as Al-Shabab.

In a televised speech, the Kenyan president said: "They have killed at least 39 innocent people and injured more than 150 others. With the entire nation, I stand with the families of those who have lost their lives and extend every Kenyan's deepest condolences."

Kenyatta made the speech as the standoff continued into the night between police officers and the armed men in the mall, hours after the shootout began in the morning.

Meanwhile, security had been enhanced across the East African nation, with numerous measures put in place to hunt down perpetrators of the act.

The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) secretary general Abbas Gullet said earlier that rescue operation was still underway, expressing fears that there would be more casualties since some of the shoppers are still holed up in the mall.

Kenya's interior ministry, however, was not sure whether there were hostages inside the mall.

Meanwhile, the US condemned the attack and senseless act of violence.

According to the US embassy in Nairobi, US citizens were among the injured. "We have reports of American citizens injured in the attack, and the US embassy is actively reaching out to provide assistance."

"We condemn this senseless act of violence that has resulted in death and injury for many innocent men, women, and children. Our condolences go out to the families and friends of all victims," the US embassy statement said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke to President Kenyatta and expressed his concern as well as offered his solidarity as the Kenyan authorities handle the incident.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also expressed concern over the attack, saying in a statement that he was "appalled by the attack".

The East African country has been scrambling with insecurity since October 2011, when the Kenya Defence Forces launched a cross- border incursion into Somalia in pursuit of Al-Shabab militants, who had kidnapped several foreigners from Kenyan side of the border.

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