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Westgate hostage crisis in Nairobi drags on

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Westgate hostage crisis in Nairobi drags on


Day four of the crisis in Kenya and confusion still reigns in Nairobi at the Westgate shopping complex siege, after Somali al-Shabaab terrorists denied the government’s claims it had taken control of the complex, tweeting that their gunmen were still holding their ground, and were still holding hostages.

Earlier on Tuesday the Kenyans claimed the siege was over and that most of the hostages had been freed, but fresh gunfire shortly afterwards appeared to explode that claim, and sporadic shooting has continued all morning. Just a few moments ago Kenyan police announced they had defused explosive devices planted in Westgate by al-Shabaab.

The official death toll still stands at 62, but a photographer for a French newspaper was able to get inside Westgate and his graphic pictures indicate the true horror of what happened inside. Ambulances have been leaving Westgate slowly without lights in a bid to avoid press attention, and there are reports that they are filled with bodies. Soldiers sweeping through the complex have spoken of an “uncountable” number of bodies. Many appear to have been killed execution-style. However the Red Cross has revised down to 51 the number of people still missing.

The nationality of the attackers also remains confused, with speculation Americans and Britons are involved, possibly including the widow of one of the 2005 London bombers, Samantha Lewthwaite, sometimes known as the “white widow”. This has been denied, again on Twitter, by al-Shabaab in Somalia, as nonsense. She is wanted in Kenya on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks.

A local TV station in Nairobi claims six of the terrorists have been killed, but there has been no confirmation of this. The Kenyans are sticking with their previous figure of three dead, all killed during Monday’s assault on the complex. Then it is believed around 30 hostages were still in the complex; a security expert with sources inside says he believes 10 remain inside. No-one has been brought out alive so far today.

In a separate development the UN’s envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay called on Tuesday for an African Union troop surge to end the al-Shabaab threat there. He estimates they have 5000 fighters in the country, insisting that there was currently a “once in a generation” opportunity to bring peace to Somalia, and defeating al-Shabaab was key. He claimed the cost of an extra effort would be “very small”, but walking away from the conflict would be very expensive.

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