3 extremists killed in Kenya; mall nearly under control

9:19 PM, Sep 23, 2013   |    comments
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Video: 3 extremists killed in Kenya; mall nearly under control

  • People take cover outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, after heavy shooting started on Sept. 23, 2013. (Photo: Sayyid Azim, AP)
  • Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall after shooting started inside the mall early on Sept. 23, 2013. (Photo: Sayyid Azim, AP)
    

 


 


(USATODAY) -- Kenyan officials said Monday that security forces killed three Islamic extremists on Monday and took nearly full control of an upscale shopping mall from a band of Somali terrorists who have killed at least 62 people.

The authorities say they are "very certain" that all but a few hostages taken two day ago in a shooting rampage by the al-Shabab group have been freed.

STORY: Local Kenyan keeps close eye on mall massacre

There had been fears of more hostage casualties on Monday after four loud explosions rocked the Nairobi neighborhood where the Westgate mall is located.

The three attackers from the armed Islamic group linked with al-Qaeda were killed in the fighting Monday, officials said, and more than 10 suspects arrested.

Eleven Kenyan soldiers were wounded in the running gunbattles, but Kenyan security officials claimed that by evening they had 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.

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 this people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," he said.

Kenya's foreign minister, Amina Mohamed, told The Washington Post on Monday that "two or three" of the attackers were young Americans.

He described them as about 18 or 19 years old and of Somali or Arab origin.

In Minneapolis, federal law enforcement officials are reviewing whether Americans were among the terrorists in Nairobi.

Minneapolis FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said Monday that authorities were "monitoring'' reports from the region of possible links. "We're not confirming or speculating on possible involvement at this time,'' Loven said.

The Minneapolis community is home to a large Somali community, whose young men have been targeted for recruitment by the terror group, al-Shabab, which has claimed responsibility for the attack.

"The FBI enjoys a wonderful relationship with the Somali community here,'' Loven said. "The community is appalled with what is happening.''

In Kenya, the interior minister said some hostages, who have been held for three days, have been released and those remaining are "very, very minimal," CNN reports.

Associated Press reporters on the scene heard multiple blasts and a barrage of gunfire. Black and gray smoke rose up from the mall.

Authorities in Kenya, communicating through social media, appealed for calm and told people to stay away from the mall complex, where the operation is continuing.

Earlier, Kenya's Red Cross said the death toll rose to 69 after more bodies were recovered Sunday. However, the Kenyan government revised that figure lower, with Kenya's interior ministry saying Monday that 62 were confirmed dead.

In its latest news briefing, the ministry said that all of the attackers are men but that some were dressed as women. Two militants were killed this morning and several others injured. The ministry said that the "operation will come to an end soon."

The militants stormed the mall Saturday from two sides, throwing grenades and firing on civilians. More than 175 people were injured in the attack, including many children, Kenyan officials say.

STORY: Victims of the Kenya mall attack

Kim Hjelmgaard and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

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