At least 15 people have been killed in a gunbattle inside a shopping centre in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, according to the Kenyan Red Cross.
Police are exchanging fire with gunmen at the Westgate centre in the Westlands district – one of the city’s most exclusive shopping malls. The gunmen are reported to be carrying assault rifles and wearing combat fatigues.
Police and security guards, who are calling the siege a “terrorist incident”, told the AFP news agency that gunmen have also taken at least seven hostages.
A source who spoke from inside the mall said the centre was busy with Saturday afternoon shoppers when gunfire erupted.
Another witness told Al Jazeera that the attackers threw grenades into the building at about midday local time (09:00 GMT).
A freelance reporter who has been outside the shopping centre, Alan Boswell, also told Al Jazeera that a strong firefight broke out earlier, and that there are still people being evacuated from the mall, some on stretchers.
“Many of them are quite terrified – they’re crying, they’re clutching their children,” said Boswell.
An unknown number of attackers, he said, were still inside and in control of certain parts of the mall, where a heavy security presence remains.
“There’s been no indication that [the situation] is under control,” said Boswell.
Police said they had surrounded the Westgate mall, which is popular with wealthy Kenyans and expatriates, and urged residents to stay away from the area.
One report says 80 people are trapped in the basement. Police say they have managed to escort some shoppers to safety but are still trying to capture the gunmen.
Billow Kerrow, a senator from Mandera County in Nairobi, said it is still unknown who the attackers are.
“It’s too early to know what kind of people these are, but from what we are getting, these are people who speak in the Swahili language,” said Kerrow.
“They are people who seem to know what they are doing, are pretty much organised. It’s really quite a shocking thing because from what we’re getting, they aren’t ordinary thugs,” he said.