Kenya Mourns for the Siege Victims

Kenyan government has announced three days of national mourning following the end of the four-day siege by Islamist militants on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping center. It is now confirmed that six members of the security forces were among 67 people who had died. On the other hand five militants had been killed and 11 other suspects arrested.

Journalists and onlookers were kept behind a security cordon but police let some people retrieve cars from the scene. In his address, the president praised the response of ordinary Kenyans, calling it exemplary and overwhelming. The newly elected president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta said that they finally defeated their attackers.

The BBC’s Will Ross reports from Nairobi that one of the people arrested is understood to have been in the shopping centre, though it is not clear whether they were armed, or among the 10-15 attackers that Kenyan authorities have spoken of.

At least 18 foreigners are among the dead. They include six Britons as well as citizens from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.  About 175 people were wounded, including 62 who remain in hospital.

Somali Islamist group al-Shabab said it had carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan army operations in Somalia.

The militants stormed the Westgate centre on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and staff. “Now it is for the forensic and criminal experts,” said police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi.

A Twitter post from al-Shabab on Tuesday dismissed claims that women were involved in the attack. The group said: “We have an adequate number of young men who are fully committed and we do not employ our sisters in such military operations.”

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia. There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia as part of an African Union force supporting Somali government forces.

Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia. Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.

UN special representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay called on Tuesday for a fresh surge in African troops to Somalia to counter an estimated 5,000 al-Shabab fighters. The incident not only led to death of human life but also a loop hole to the economy of the country. The tourism sector made losses as many visitors made cancellations, and no more clients booking safaris in Kenya at the moment until the situation stabilizes.