Kenya's Mall Standoff Is Finally Over (We Think)

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 24 2013 1:09 PM

Kenya's Mall Standoff Is Finally Over (We Think)

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Smoke rises on September 23, 2013 from the beseiged Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi following a loud explosion

Photo by James Quest/AFP/Getty Images

The major terrorist attack at an upscale Nairobi mall that left scores of civilians dead appeared finally to come to an end Tuesday, three days after the bloody siege began in the Kenyan capital. I say appeared only out of an abundance of caution given the string of conflicting reports that have recently come out of Kenya, where government officials had previously suggested on more than one occasion that they had the situation under control only for additional gunfire to break out shortly thereafter.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Still, the latest news appears credible, in no small part because it was delivered by President Uhuru Kenyatta during a prime-time address to the nation. "We have been badly hurt and feel great pain and loss, but we have been brave, united and strong," he said. "Kenya has stared down great evil and triumphed."

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Kenyatta put the current death toll at 72, a figure he said included six security officers and five of the Islamic militants behind the attack. There's a chance that the casualty count—which stands at 240 when the wounded are factored in—could still grow, however. The Kenyan president said that three floors of the Westgate shopping center had collapsed during the "tail end" of the government's counter operation, leaving it possible that some of the wounded or dead have not yet been accounted for.

Kenyatta said that in addition to the five "terrorists" who were killed, eleven other suspected militants have also been arrested. He said that he could not confirm, however, reports that Americans and a British citizen were among the original group of attackers.

On Monday, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed suggested that the militant group inside the mall included "one Brit" and "two or three Americans," who she described as 18- or 19-year-olds who were of Somali or Arab origin but who lived "in Minnesota and one other place." The U.S. government, however, says that it has not yet been able to confirm that claim. A spokesman for Al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked group thought to be behind the attack, meanwhile, denied to Reuters that any Americans or Brits were involved in the operation.

This post has been updated with additional information as it became available.

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