Islamists around the world are staging coordinated attacks with increasing regularity. Yesterday saw a series of coordinated attacks on the Arabian peninsula, and today sees al-Qaeda affiliated militants seizing a shopping mall, killing dozens and injuring 40.
Witnesses say that terrorists were responsible for the attack, which happened earlier this morning. Gunmen burst into the mall and indiscriminately killed some while taking others hostage. The police took those escaping civilians to a secured location to verify they were not gunmen trying to sneak away; reports indicate they were streaming away from the mall, arms raised as a police escort accompanied them.
The Kenyan Interior Ministry released a press statement urging “Kenyans to keep off Westgate mall, adjacent roads and its environs until further notice… We’re doing our job to ensure that everyone is evacuated to safety. This is a scene of crime, let police do their job.”
CNN reports Joseph Ole Lenku, a Kenyan government official, confirming 11 dead while Reuters has the number solidly at 25. Lenku said of their conservative estimate that the number “may go up, but for now, that’s the number we have.”
Reuters notes this latest attack is the largest instance of terrorism to occur in Nairobi since the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassy. Although at first hesitant to report any one group as responsible for the attack, (Kenya’s president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud believes they “don’t have any proof that the people who did this are Somali”) Kenyan officials are blaming Somali militant group al Shabaab, which is affiliated with al Qaeda.
The attack is believed to be an al-Qaeda response to coordinated efforts by Kenyan military forces that target al Shabaab. No public claim of responsibility has been made, but one witness did report that the attackers told all Muslims to clear the area.
If you want to read the Reuters version, you can find it here, but be warned that the details are graphic and it should be viewed with discretion.[Image via a brief YouTube report of the shooting]