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Updated: Tue, 24 Sep 2013 00:05:26 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Kenya attack: Police say they've regained control of mall



A police officer takes cover at a distance from the Westgate Shopping Centre after continuous gunfire was heard coming from the mall on Monday. Siegfried Modola/Reuters

A police officer takes cover at a distance from the Westgate Shopping Centre after continuous gunfire was heard coming from the mall on Monday. Siegfried Modola/Reuters

Kenya's national police service says officers have regained control of the mall in Nairobi where al-Qaeda-linked militants launched a savage attack Saturday, killing a reported 62 people, including two Canadian citizens.

However, a heavy burst of gunfire was heard from the mall by a witness on Tuesday, suggesting that the complex had not yet been secured, Reuters reported.

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Canadian officials have also confirmed that at least two Canadian citizens were among the 175 injured in the attack at the upscale shopping mall. A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs confirmed that two Canadians were killed and two were injured and remain in hospital following the attack.

John Babcock said Monday that consular officials had been in contact with the families and continue to provide assistance as required.

"For privacy reasons, we are not able to release any further details," Babcock said in an email.

A Minnesota woman identified the injured Canadians as her nieces Fardosa Abdi, 17, and Dheman Abdi, 16. She told The Associated Press that the girls were shopping when the siege started.

She said Fardosa is in critical condition after undergoing two surgeries for severe leg injuries, while Dheman had a bullet break her leg and an explosion injure her arm. Hassan said the teens are Canadian citizens who moved three years ago to Nairobi, where their father has a real estate business.

Several federal departments confirmed that one of the dead Canadians was Annemarie Desloges, 29, a diplomat who worked at the Canadian Embassy. Desloges was previously posted in Delhi and was off-duty, shopping at the mall Saturday when the militants attacked.

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Desloges has worked for both Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as well as the Canada Border Services Agency in Kenya, the offices confirmed in a joint statement Saturday night. She joined the CIC in 2006, then the foreign service in 2008.

Another Canadian who died in the attack at the upmarket shopping centre has been identified by Vancouver-area family members as Naguib Damji.

On Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his sympathies to the families, colleagues and friends of Desloges and Damji, calling the attack “brutal and cowardly.”

“We will work with the authorities in Kenya and our partners around the world to hold those who have perpetrated this responsible,” Harper said.

U.S. President Barack Obama made his first public remarks on the mall attack while meeting with Nigeria’s president on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting Monday, calling the attack a “terrible outrage.”

Obama said the United States is providing law enforcement assistance and “all the help it can” to deal with the attack.

Obama had called Kenya's president over the weekend to offer condolences and support.

Explosions and gunfire were heard through the morning Monday, as the battle within continued, the CBC's Nahlah Ayed reported from the scene. At about 2 p.m. local time, black smoke was rising from the upscale shopping mall (Nairobi is seven hours ahead of Eastern Time).

Kenya's military and police tweeted that they "dominated all floors" of the mall and that two of the attackers had been killed, though Ayed said there was no immediate indication outside the mall that an end to the standoff had occurred.

On Monday, there was frustration among residents in Nairobi.​

Ayed also reported that pastors had arrived near the mall to sing and pray for the hostages and those who lost their lives.

Late on Sunday, Kenya's National Disaster Operation Centre posted on Twitter, "This will end tonight. Our forces will prevail."

​Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku revised the death toll to 62. Kenyan officials earlier said 59 people had died since the siege began, while the Red Cross had put the toll at 68, then in a tweet lowered it to 62, saying some bodies had been counted twice.

Police tweeted that more than 200 civilians had been rescued and more than 10 people arrested.

The Kenyan Defence Forces said on Twitter that 11 soldiers were injured in the battle, but that the chances of any attackers "sneaking and escaping" were slim.

Ayed said Kenyan authorities had used tear gas several times on crowds of civilians gathered near the mall — many of them angry that the standoff hadn't ended sooner.

At daybreak Monday, military helicopters circled over the mall when about five minutes of sustained gunfire broke out inside, a clear indication that at least one of the estimated 10 to 15 gunmen who attacked the shopping centre Saturday was still on the loose.

Late on Sunday, a military spokesman had said "most" of the hostages had been released, but a person with knowledge of the rescue operation told AP that none of them had been let go or rescued overnight. The person insisted on anonymity.

Kenyan authorities said they would do their utmost to save hostages' lives, but no officials could say precisely how many people were being held captive. Kenya's Red Cross said in a statement, citing police, that 49 people had been reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could give an indication of the number of people held captive.

Col. Cyrus Oguna, a Kenyan military spokesman, said that many of the rescued hostages — mostly adults — were suffering from dehydration. An Associated Press reporter at a triage centre next to the mall said no hostages ever showed up there.

As the crisis neared the 48-hour mark, video taken by someone inside the mall's main department store when the assault began emerged. The video showed frightened and unsure shoppers crouching as long and loud volleys of gunfire could be heard.

Loud exchanges of gunfire rang out from inside the four-storey mall Sunday. Kenyan troops were seen carrying in at least two rocket-propelled grenades. Al-Shabaab militants reacted angrily to the helicopters on Twitter and warned that the Kenyan military action was endangering hostages.

Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked rebel group, al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the attack that specifically targeted non-Muslims, saying it was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighbouring Somalia. Kenya's presidential office said one of the attackers was arrested on Saturday and died after suffering from bullet wounds.

Al-Shabaab said hostages held by militants holed up in the mall would be killed if force is used, according to an audio statement carried by a website linked to the group, reported Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned "an enormous offence against everybody's sense of right and wrong," and called the attackers "ruthless and completely reckless terrorists."

Kerry, who was in New York for meetings at the United Nations, spoke Sunday with Somalia's foreign minister and UN ambassador.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said U.S. law enforcement, military and civilian personnel in Nairobi were providing advice and assistance to the Kenyan authorities. She said five Americans were among the scores of people injured in the attack, but the U.S. had no reports of any American deaths.

Earlier Sunday, al-Shabaab said on its new Twitter feed — after its previous one was shut down Saturday — that Kenyan officials were asking the hostage-takers to negotiate and offering incentives.

"We'll not negotiate with the Kenyan govt as long as its forces are invading our country, so reap the bitter fruits of your harvest," al-Shabaab said in a tweet.

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost a nephew and the nephew's fiancee in the attack, reiterated his government's determination to continue fighting al-Shabaab.

"We went as a nation into Somalia to help stabilize the country and most importantly to fight terror that had been unleashed on Kenya and the world," said Kenyatta. "We shall not relent on the war on terror."

Although this violent attack had succeeded, the Kenyan leader said, the country's security forces had "neutralized" many others.

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Monday adjourned the trial of Kenyan Vice-President William Ruto for a week to allow him to return home and deal with the hostage crisis.

Kenyan security officials sought to reassure the families of hostages but implied that some of those being held could be killed.

"The priority is to save as many lives as possible," said Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Lenku, adding that more than 1,000 people escaped the attack Saturday.

"We have received a lot of messages from friendly countries, but for now it remains our operation," Lenku said, adding that Kenyan forces controlled the mall's security cameras.

Westgate mall is at least partially owned by Israelis, and reports circulated that Israeli commandos were on the ground to assist in the response. Four restaurants inside the mall are Israeli-run or owned.

In Israel, a senior defence official said there were no Israeli forces participating in an assault, but said it was possible that Israeli advisers were providing assistance. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a classified military issue, would not elaborate.

Israel has close ties to Kenya going back many years. In recent years, Israel has identified East Africa as an area of strategic interest and stepped up ties with Kenya and other neighbouring countries, due to shared threats posed by al-Qaeda and other extremist elements. In 2002, militants bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel near Mombasa, killing 13 people, and tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time.

Among other foreigners confirmed dead include those from Britain, France, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.

Britain's prime minister, in confirming the deaths of three British nationals, told the country to "prepare ourselves for further bad news."

Kofi Awoonor, a Ghanaian poet, professor and former ambassador to Brazil, Cuba and the United Nations, died after being wounded in the attack, Ghana's presidential office confirmed. Ghana's Ministry of Information said Awoonor's son was injured and is responding to treatment.

Britain's Foreign Office said that Foreign Secretary William Hague chaired a meeting of Britain's crisis committee and sent a rapid deployment team from London to Nairobi to provide extra consular support.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the attacks and "expressed their solidarity with the people and government of Kenya" in a statement.

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