An upscale mall in Kenya was the scene of gunfire and explosions Saturday, after a group of attackers used grenades to strike during lunch hour in Nairobi. Updates from the scene indicate at least 15 deaths may have occurred, with more possible. We’ll add more news to this post as it emerges.
“Rob Vandijk, who works at the Dutch embassy, said he was eating at a restaurant inside the mall when attackers lobbed hand grenades inside the building,” the AP reports. “He said gunfire then burst out and people screamed as they dropped to the ground.”
The AP reports that police arrived at the mall roughly 30 minutes after the attack began. A gun battle ensued; the situation is now being described as a standoff. Sporadic gunfire is being reported from the scene. A motive for the attack is not yet known.
Update at 8:50 a.m. ET: Red Cross Says At Least 15 Killed, ‘Scores Injured’
Kenya’s Red Cross says “at least 15 killed” in the attack, Reuters reports.
On its Twitter feed, the Kenya Red Cross says that most hospitals in the area are full. An earlier update said, “Scores injured in the #Westgate Shootout.”
Update at 8:28 a.m. ET: Many Hostages Emerge
Moments ago, live coverage on Kenya’s Citizen TV news showed a large group of people, including children, walking quickly from the mall, escorted by security personnel. Many were immediately reunited with friends and family members who had been waiting outside.
Citizen TV reports that the gunmen had taken control of the upper floors and rooftop of the mall.
“We’ve managed to evacuate a number of people,” Kenya’s Interior Ministry tweeted.
But it seems the situation is not yet over. Officials have repeatedly urged Kenyans to donate blood to help the wounded.
Our original post continues:
Reports from the scene describe dozens of people streaming out of the multi-level Westgate Mall, in an affluent area on Nairobi’s north side. Photos showed others receiving treatment for wounds on the sidewalk, and security personnel in green fatigues and helmets taking up positions outside the mall.
Police tell Kenya’s Daily Nation that officers have evacuated parts of the area and are trying to learn more about the attackers.
“We have dispatched air surveillance and we confirm that they are armed criminals. We want to know who they are,” said Internal Security Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo.
Kenya’s Inspector General of Police National Police Service David Kimaiyo has been providing updates on Twitter about the incident. He warned the public and the media to stay away from the area.
“I am directing all media houses to stop showing alarming pictures,” he said.