A security officer helps a wounded woman outside Nairobi's Westgate Mall, an upscale shopping mall where a deadly shooting erupted on Saturday. Jason Straziuso/Associated Press
Gunmen threw grenades, fired automatic weapons and targeted non-Muslims at the upscale Westgate mall in Kenya's capital on Saturday, killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens more, a Red Cross official and witnesses said.
Police blamed the attack on terrorists.
Kenyan military and police surrounded the mall, which had been hosting a children's day event, and helicopters flew overhead. Gunmen remained inside hours after the attack, although firing subsided.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but an off duty military official identified one of the attackers as Somali.
People continued to trickle out from hiding places within the mall, which is frequented by expatriates and rich Kenyans in Nairobi's affluent Westlands neighbourhood. It was not immediately known how many people remained inside, and whether they were still alive.
Earlier in the day mall guards used shopping carts to wheel out wounded children, as others emerged crying or clutching their kids.
The death toll is expected to rise, said Kenya Red Cross official Abbas Gullet.
"We are treating this as a terrorist attack," said police chief Benson Kibue, adding that there are likely no more than 10 attackers involved. Police did not say what group was responsible for the attack.
Somali's Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, vowed in late 2011 to carry out a large-scale attack in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to fight the insurgents. Off duty Sgt. Major Frank Mugungu said Saturday he saw four male attackers and one female, and that he could clearly identify one of the gunmen as a Somali, though he could not identify the rest. The Westgate mall, with shops like Nike, adidas and Bose, has Israeli ownership, and security experts have in the past identified the mall as a possible terror target in Nairobi. The gunmen announced that non-Muslims would be targeted, said Elijah Kamau, who was at the mall at the time of the midday attack. "The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted," he said.
The upscale mall is often frequented by tourists and expatriates.
"We don't have a clear number of attackers or know what has happened to them," freelance reporter James Reinl told CBC News, reporting from Nairobi.
Reinl said it's believed gunmen entered the mall through the top floor, possibly from a parking lot connected to the building.
"We're expecting more and more information to come out this evening. We haven't had any clear full statement for example on television by the president or the chief of police, and that's because the situation has still not been brought under control," Reinl said.
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