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Kenya forces claim to control most of mall

Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after shooting started inside the mall early Monday morning, Sept. 23, 2013. Kenya's military launched a major operation at the upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued "most" of the hostages being held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants during the standoff that killed at least 68 people and injured 175.
Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after shooting started inside the mall early Monday morning, Sept. 23, 2013. Kenya's military launched a major operation at the upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued "most" of the hostages being held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants during the standoff that killed at least 68 people and injured 175.
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Updated: 9/23/2013 2:48 pm
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Kenyan officials said security forces controlled nearly all of an upscale mall on Monday, two days after it was seized by members of a Somali terrorist group who invaded with guns blazing, killing at least 62 people.

Four thunderous explosions reverberated through a Nairobi neighborhood in the morning, raising fears for the lives of any remaining hostages still being held by al-Shabab, a Somali armed Islamic group linked with al-Qaida, in the Westgate Mall.

Three attackers had been killed in the fighting Monday, officials said, and more than 10 suspects arrested. Eleven Kenyan soldiers were wounded in the running gun battles. By evening, Kenyan security officials were claiming the upper hand.

"Taken control of all the floors. We're not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them," Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo said on Twitter.

Kenya's interior minister said the evacuation of hostages "has gone very, very well" and that Kenyan officials are "very certain" that there are few if any hostages left in the building.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku also revised the death toll to 62. Kenyan officials earlier said 59 people have died since the siege on Westgate Mall began on Saturday, 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.

Dark plumes of smoke rose from the mall for more than an hour after four large explosions rocked the upscale Westlands neighborhood. A person with knowledge of the rescue operation told The Associated Press that the smoke was rising up and out of a large skylight inside the mall's main department and grocery store, Nakumatt, where goods like mattresses may have been lit on fire.

Kenya Chief of Defense forces Gen. Julius Karangi said fighters from an array of nations participated in the attack claimed by al-Shabab.
"We have an idea who these people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," he said.

Karangi said Kenyan forces were in charge of all floors inside the mall, though terrorists could still be hiding inside. Earlier witness reports had indicated that a woman was among the estimated 10 to 15 attackers. Lenku said that instead some male attackers had dressed up like women.

The four explosions were followed by volleys of gunfire, then a thick, dark column of smoke that burned for roughly 90 minutes. Military and police helicopters and one plane circled over the Nairobi mall, giving the upscale neighborhood the feel of a war zone.

On Sunday Kenyan officials announced that "most" hostages had been rescued. But no numbers were given. Kenyan officials have never said how many hostages they thought the attackers had, but have said preserving the hostages' lives is a top priority.

Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including British, French, Canadians, Indians, a Ghanaian, a South African and a Chinese woman. The UK Foreign Office said Monday it has confirmed the deaths of four British nationals.

From neighboring Somalia, spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage for al-Shabab — the militant group that claimed responsibility for the attack — said in an audio file posted on a website that the hostage takers had been ordered to "take punitive action against the hostages" if force was used to try to rescue them.

At the Oshwal Centre next to the mall, the Red Cross was using a squat concrete structure that houses a Hindu temple as a triage center. Medical workers attended to at least two wounded Kenyan soldiers there on Monday.

Al-Shabab said on a Twitter feed, an account that unlike some others appears to be genuine, that the attackers had lots of ammunition. The feed said that Kenya's government would be responsible for any loss of hostages' lives.

As the crisis surpassed 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.

The al-Shabab extremists stormed the mall on Saturday from two sides, throwing grenades and firing on civilians.

Kenya's Red Cross said in a statement, citing police, that 49 people had been reported missing.

Al-Shabab said the attack, targeting non-Muslims, was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.

Al-Shabab is an extremist Islamic terrorist force that grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a longtime dictator in 1991. Its name means "The Youth" in Arabic, and it was a splinter youth wing of a weak Islamic Courts Union government created in 2006 to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the East African nation.

Al-Shabab is estimated to have several thousand fighters, including a few hundred foreign fighters. Some of the insurgents' foreign fighters are from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Others are young, raw recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.

Victims of the Kenya mall attack

LONDON (AP) - The attack on the upscale Westgate Mall in Kenya's capital has killed dozens of people, from Africa, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas. Here are details about some of the victims.

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AUSTRALIA

Ross Langdon was an architect who worked in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, creating eco-lodges and socially sustainable tourism in ecologically sensitive locations.

He was born in Tasmania, he said at a conference in Krakow last year, and his experiences living off the land as a child persuaded him it was better to try to adapt to one's environment than to attempt to change it - to express sensitivity and respect for the tradition of the communities in which he was working.

"I thought it might be better to be like a chameleon - able to adapt and change and blend with our environment rather than conquer it," he said.

The firm he co-founded, Regional Associates, an architecture and research consultancy, issued a statement expressing grief.

"Ross was living his dream, greatly contributing to the lives of people within highly disadvantaged communities and supporting habitat conservation for some of the world's most threatened species," the organization said on its website.

The consultancy has offices in London, Australia, and Uganda. British media widely reported that Langdon was a dual national, though the Foreign Office did not identify British victims by name.

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THE NETHERLANDS

Langdon's partner, Elif Yavuz, 33, was expecting their first child in early October.

A 2013 graduate of Harvard University's Department of Global Health and Population, she had completed her dissertation research on malaria in eastern Africa and was working with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the university said in a note to faculty, staff and students.

Yavuz was listed as a co-author on at least one academic malaria study, including one led by Harvard in 2009 in Uganda, examining whether people with malaria stuck to their treatment. She was also listed as a contributing author in a letter to the medical journal Lancet last year that argued the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria should use more innovative strategies in public health.

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PERU

Juan Ortiz-Iruri was a retired tropical disease specialist for UNICEF who had lived for 25 years in Africa, according to UNICEF and Peruvian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Neyra.

His son Ricardo Ortiz told Radio RPP that he entered the mall accompanied by his daughter, a 13-year-old born in the U.S.

"The version from my sister is that sadly my father fell to the floor and showed no signs of life," Ortiz said. He said his sister suffered a hand injury, but is out of danger.

Ortiz-Iruri had worked in Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Liberia.

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GHANA

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.

Awoonor's work drew its inspiration from the traditions of his native Ewe tribe. Ghana's poetry foundation said on its website that Awoonor went into exile after Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was driven out in a coup in 1966. He studied at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his dissertation was later published as "The Breast of the Earth: A survey of the History Culture and Literature of Africa South of the Sahara" (1975). He returned to Ghana in 1975 and was later jailed for alleged involvement coup plot. His time in prison was recounted in "The House by the Sea (1978)," the foundation said.

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KENYA

Ruhila Adatia-Sood, whose husband worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Nairobi, was killed, the organization said in a press statement. She was a popular radio and TV personality in Kenya and tributes poured in for her on Twitter and Facebook. She was expecting a child.

Mitul Shah, the president of a second-tier football team in Kenya was among those killed, a spokesman for the country's national football federation told The Associated Press. Shah, president of Bidco United, was shot and killed on the first day of the siege on Saturday, Football Kenya spokesman John Kaniuki said. Shah worked for the Bidco cooking oil company and was reportedly attending a promotional cooking event with children at the Westgate mall.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's nephew and nephew's fiancee were also among the dead.

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INDIA

Two Indians, 8-year-old Parmashu Jain and 40-year-old Sridhar Natarajan, were killed, and four others were wounded in the attack, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said.

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CANADA

Two Canadians, including a diplomat, died in the attack, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He paid tribute to the victims and noted the loss of diplomat Annemarie Desloges, who served in Canada's High Commission to Kenya as a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency. Her spouse Robert Munk was wounded in the attack, but has since been released from the hospital, the Canadian Press reported.

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SWITZERLAND

The Swiss government confirmed that one of its citizens was injured in the attack. It said its embassy in Nairobi is in contact with the victim's family and local officials, but would not provide further detail on the victim's name.

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BRITAIN

British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said six British nationals are believed to have died in the attack, and he warned the number could rise.

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FRANCE

Two French women were killed, President Francois Hollande said.

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SOUTH AFRICA

One South African citizen was killed, according to the country's International Relations Department.

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CHINA

A 38-year-old Chinese woman with the surname Zhou who worked in the real estate industry was killed in the attack, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. Her son was injured in the attack and was in stable condition in a hospital, according to the Chinese Embassy in Kenya.

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U.S.

Five American citizens were injured, U.S. officials said.

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NEW ZEALAND

Andrew McLaren, 34, a New Zealander who managed a factory in Kenya for the avocado oil company Olivado, was wounded in the attack, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed. He was hospitalized in stable condition.

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Associated Press writers Maria Cheng in London; Franklin Briceno in Lima, Peru; and Gerald Imray in Cape Town, South Africa, contributed to this story.

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