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Kenyans Mourn as Deadly Mall Attack Ends With 61 Dead

Kenyan Security Forces Struggle to End Mall Siege That Killed 62
Heavy smoke is seen from the site of the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall, in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 23, 2013. Photographer: Wiiliam Oeri/Nation Media/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Kenyans began three days of mourning after security forces ended an attack by Islamist militants on an upscale mall in the capital, Nairobi, that killed at least 61 civilians.

“Our losses are immense,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a national address late yesterday. “We have shamed and defeated our attackers. These cowards will meet justice.”

Five of the al-Qaeda-linked gunmen who stormed the Westgate Mall on Sept. 21 were killed, 11 suspects have been arrested in connection with the assault, and six Kenyan security officers are dead, Kenyatta said. Three floors of the building have collapsed, and bodies, including those of some of the attackers, are trapped under the rubble, he said. The government earlier estimated there were as many as 15 assailants from different countries.

The attack was the deadliest in the country since the August 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in downtown Nairobi killed 213 people. Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based militia that claimed responsibility for the raid, had threatened to strike after Kenya deployed troops in Somalia in October 2011 to fight the militants whom it blamed for a series of kidnappings and the murder of a British tourist in Kenya. Al-Shabaab denied the accusations.

The shilling gained less than 0.1 percent today, erasing a loss of as much as 0.3 percent since the crisis started, and traded at 87.40 per dollar by 9:05 Nairobi. The Nairobi Securities Exchange’s FTSE NSE 25 Index fell 0.3 percent to 164.24 in the period. The stock exchange opens at 9:30 a.m.

Stable Country

Kenya’s relative stability in a volatile region has attracted companies including Toyota Motor Corp., International Business Machines Corp., General Electric Corp. and Google Inc. to set up bases in the East African nation. The United Nations’ African headquarters are also in Nairobi.

East Africa’s largest economy will stick to its plan to seek about $1.5 billion from its debut Eurobond issue by December and the outlook for economic growth is the same as before the attack, which is an “isolated” incident, Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich said yesterday. The state forecasts 5.6 percent expansion in 2013 from 4.6 percent last year.

The upscale, Western-style Westgate Mall had more than 80 shops including restaurants, salons, a cinema and a casino and it was popular with wealthy Kenyans and foreigners.

Al-Shabaab Targets

Al-Shabaab has been fighting Somalia’s government since at least 2006. The militant group claimed responsibility in July 2010 for coordinated bomb attacks in neighboring Uganda that killed 76 people watching the soccer World Cup final at two venues. Al-Shabaab said it targeted Uganda because the country had troops serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The United Nations-backed African Union Mission for Somalia, or Amisom, has more than 17,000 peacekeepers in the Horn of African nation including 6,223 Ugandans, 5,432 Burundians, 4,040 Kenyans, 999 from Djibouti and 850 from Sierra Leone.

East African leaders stand by their refusal to withdraw soldiers from Somalia, a demand repeatedly made by al-Shabaab, Mahboub Maalim, executive secretary of the seven-nation group known as Intergovernmental Authority on Development, said today in an e-mailed statement.

“Terrorists shall neither discourage IGAD and member states in their collective efforts in Somali no intimidate Amisom forces into pulling out of Somalia until total peace and stability has been achieved,” Maalim said.

Foreign Thanks

Kenyatta thanked foreign leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, for their support during the ordeal. Among the victims are citizens from the U.K., India, France, Canada, South Africa, China and Ghana.

“Terrorism is a global problem that requires global solutions,” said Kenyatta, who lost his nephew in the attack. “Kenya will stand with our friends in tackling terrorism and I ask our friends to stand with us.”

Kenya will lead forensic studies while experts from Israel, the U.S. and Britain will help, Francis Kimemia, secretary to the Kenyan cabinet, said on his Twitter account.

The president said he couldn’t confirm the nationalities of the attackers. Kenyan Foreign Secretary Amina Mohamed told PBS’s “NewsHour” on Sept. 23 that two or three Americans and a female British citizen participated in the attack.

The Kenya Red Cross said on Sept. 23 that 63 people were missing in the attack. Kenyatta didn’t account for those people in his speech.

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