Updated Sept. 22, 9:00 a.m.
Heavily armed gunmen stormed a crowded shopping mall in the Kenyan capitol Nairobi on Saturday, killing at least 59 people–including children–and injuring 175 others in an apparent terrorist attack.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the attacks Sunday, and extended his condolences to the families of those killed or injured. Ki-Moon was also expected to make a statement from the UN Sunday morning.
The Somali militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, tweeting that it was “just retribution for the lives of innocent Muslims” killed by Kenyan troops sent to fight in neighboring Somalia. The militant group’s official Twitter account said it had warned of “severe consequences” should Kenya refuse their demands to remove forces from Somalia.
“The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia,” it said in another tweet.
Eye witnesses and local media reports that roughly 10 gunmen attacked the mall, which is frequented by Westerners and expatriates, and began shooting indiscriminately, perhaps targeting non-Muslims. According to the Associated Press, the assailants were armed with AK-47s and grenades when they entered the mall around noon local time. U.S. State Department officials said American citizens were reportedly among the more than 50 people injured in the attack.
Kenyan police and soldiers surrounded the Westgate mall hours after the initial assault and began hunting the attackers shop by shop, Reuters reports. In a televised statement Saturday, Kenya Presiden Uhuru Kenyatta said that his own close relatives were among the 39 killed and more than 150 injured in the attack. He sought to console victims and their families, and pledged to bring justice to the attackers.
“Let me make it clear, that we shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to, we shall get them and we shall punish them for this heinous crime,” Kenyatta said.
The White House condemned the attack and offered the U.S.’s full support to the Kenyan government to hunt down the culprits. “The perpetrators of this heinous act must be brought to justice,” spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement Saturday. “This cowardly act against innocent civilian will not shake our resolve.”
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.