Military forces prepared for an operation inside Westgate mall in Nairobi, where 10 gunmen with Al Shabab, a Somali terror cell, killed 59 shoppers and injured 175 people Saturday. Officials said there were close to 30 hostages remaining inside the building.
State Department officials said that five Americans were injured in the shooting, but that no U.S. citizens were among the casualties. Citizens of Ghana, Somalia, Australia, England, Canada, and France, were among those killed.
The standoff is the largest terrorist attack in Kenya since the bombings of two American embassies there in 1998. Sunday, President Barack Obama called Kenyan President Kenyatta to express his condolences. Obama gave Kenyatta the support of the United States in bringing Al Shabab to justice. UN Secretary General Ba-Ki Moon condemned the attack in remarks from the UN Sunday morning, calling it “reprehensible.”
“U.S. law enforcement, military and civilian personnel in Nairobi are providing advice and assistance when and as requested by the Kenyan authorities,” the State Department said. “The U.S. government is also working with the United Nations’ offices in Nairobi to provide first aid procurement assistance, such as blood bags, as requested.”
In response to the attacks, law enforcement in New York City beefed up security, dignitaries from around the world are convening in Manhattan this week for the UN General Assembly.
Approximately 10 gunmen armed with AK-47s and grenades stormed the Westgate mall around noon and began shooting, the Associated Press reported.
The Somali militant group Al Shabab—whose leadership has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda—has claimed responsibility for the attack. Al Shabab claimed it had attacked in retribution for the Kenyan military’s involvement in Somalia. A tweet that has since been deleted from Saturday said that there would be “severe consequences” if the Kenyan military did not withdraw its forces.
“Is someone going to take a look at this and try to carry out a copycat attack?” said Evan Kohlmann, an NBC terror analyst, who added that the attack did not require explosions and was relatively easy to carry out..
Al Shabab has been warning about an attack along these lines for two years leading authorities to fear further attacks, Kohlmann said.
In a statement Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry called the attack “a heartbreaking reminder” of the danger of extremist groups. “Attacks like this can’t change who we are, a people committed to peace and justice for all, but rather must reaffirm our determination to counter extremism and promote tolerance everywhere.” he said.