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Final countdown at Nairobi mall, toll 69

Final countdown at Nairobi mall, toll 69

Nairobi: Kenyan security forces Monday stepped up their onslaught against the Al Qaeda-allied Al Shabaab gunmen to end a siege of Westgate shopping mall here and free hostages held by the gunmen who Saturday stormed into the popular mall frequented by wealthy Kenyans and expatriates in Nairobi.

The final onslaught comes as the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said at least 69 people have been killed and 63 others remain unaccounted for as of 11.20 a.m. local time Monday, Xinhua reported.

Those missing are believed to have been held hostage by the gunmen who Saturday stormed into the popular shopping mall frequented by wealthy Kenyans and expatriates in Nairobi.

According to security sources, the kidnappers are holding at least 10 hostages at the mall in the continued standoff.

Sporadic gunfire and explosions were heard from the shopping mall as the standoff between the gunmen and security offices continued for the third day.

The insurgents from Somalia have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for a cross-border incursion in southern Somalia launched by Kenyan soldiers in October 2011.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary in charge of Internal Security Joseph Ole Lenku said the multi-agency security forces, who continued their operations overnight, have rescued a number of hostages from the mall.

"They have rescued a few more civilians held inside the mall, but a few still remain. We are unable to give precise figures at this stage," Lenku said.

"But we can confirm that our disciplined forces are up to the task and have been extremely careful to find the balance between neutralising the attackers and getting as many people to safety as possible."

He said some of the bodies of the victims have been released to their families for burial.

“We will in due course provide the number of foreigners killed in the attack," Lenku said.

Lenku assured Kenyans that security at all entry and departure points in the country has been significantly raised.

"We urge all Kenyans and people of goodwill to remain calm and vigilant. We thank all Kenyans for their support during this difficult time," he added.

More than 30 hours after the Al-Shabaab terrorists stormed Nairobi's Westgate mall and fired at civilians, military authorities say the siege is close to an end.

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) spokesman Cyrus Oguna earlier told Xinhua that they had been able to rescue most of the people from the shopping all, noting that no more than 10 hostages were left in the building.

So far, apart from two Indians confirmed dead, two French nationals, two Canadians, three Britons, one Chinese and one Ghanaian have lost their lives in the attack.

In New Delhi, officials named two of the Indians killed as Sridhar Natarajan, 40, from Tamil Nadu and an employee of a local pharmaceutical firm Harley's Limited; and Paramshu Jain, eight, the son of Manoj Jain, the branch manager of Industrial Area Branch, Bank of Baroda (Kenya Limited).

Natarajan's wife Manjula Sridhar was injured in the attack while the mother and sister of Paramshu - Mukta Jain, 38, and Poorvi Jain, 12 - were also injured.

The fourth injured is Natarajan Ramachandran, an employee of Flamingo Duty Free, Nairobi, according to official sources.

According to a report in the, another Indian was shot when he failed to answer a question on Islam posed by a heavily-armed gunman.

Joshua Hakim, who was in the mall, said that the gunmen spoke in Swahili for Muslims to identify themselves and leave.

Hakim covered the Christian name on his ID with his thumb and approached one of the attackers. He showed the plastic card.

"They told me to go. Then an Indian man came forward and they said, 'What is the name of Muhammad's mother?' When he couldn't answer they just shot him," he said.

It was not clear from the media report whether the Indian was injured or fatally shot.

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