Three Kenyan soldiers wounded in fierce gun battles with Islamist militants in an ongoing siege of an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall died yesterday, the army said.
“Eleven KDF [Kenya Defense Force] soldiers sustained injuries ... regrettably, three of them succumbed to their injuries,” army spokesman Cyrus Oguna said in a statement.
Islamic militants who staged the deadly attack on the mall yesterday said hostages are still alive and fighters are “still holding their ground,” as Nairobi’s city morgue braced for the arrival of a large number of bodies, an official said.
The Kenyan Red Cross had confirmed at least 62 people have been killed before the deaths of the three soldiers, but spokesman Abbas Gullet said it was still not known how many more may be dead inside the building.
“It is certainly known that there are more casualties,” he said.
A government official said that the morgue was preparing for up to 60 bodies, though the official did not know an exact count. The government official insisted on anonymity so he would not face retribution from government officials.
Kenyan forces have been battling the militants for four days and police said in a tweet: “Troops now in mop up operations in the building.”
The police urged people to ignore “enemy ... propaganda” and assured that the defense forces were continuing to “neutralize” the terrorist threat.
In a new Twitter feed established yesterday after previous ones were cut off, rebel group al-Shabaab said the attack that began on Saturday was “far greater than how the Kenyans perceive it.”
“There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the mujahidin are still holding their ground,” the group said.
It added that the hostages are “still alive looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive.”
A city resident whose brother is taking part in the military operation inside the mall said that there were many dead bodies, and a government official said city morgue employees were told to prepare for many bodies. Both the government official and the Nairobi resident insisted their names not be used so they would not face retribution from government officials.
Kenyan Minister of Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed said “two or three Americans” and “one Brit” were among those who attacked the mall.
She said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour program that the Americans were 18 to 19 years old, of Somali or Arab origin and lived “in Minnesota and one other place” in the US.
The attacker from Britain was a white woman who has “done this many times before,” Mohamed said.
A British security source said it was possible that Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the suicide bombers who killed more than 50 people on London’s transport system in 2005, was involved in the Nairobi siege.
When asked about reports that Lewthwaite, dubbed the “white widow” by the British media, was directly involved in the attack in Kenya, the source said: “It is a possibility, but nothing definitive or conclusive yet.”
Additional reporting by AFP