Kenya said its security forces were in control of the Nairobi shopping mall where militants killed at least 62 people, and police were doing a final sweep of shops early on Tuesday after rescuing the last hostages.
An overnight silence outside the large, upmarket Westgate mall was broken at daybreak with a loud burst of gunfire from inside, suggesting the complex had not yet been fully secured. A lone military chopper circled above.
“Our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind.
We believe all hostages have been released,” the Ministry of Interior said on Twitter early on Tuesday, adding his forces were “in control” of the building.
A trickle of survivors left on Monday, but the fate of the missing was unclear four days after a group of between 10 and 15 militants stormed the mall, which with its rich clientele epitomised the African consumer bonanza that is drawing foreign investment to one of the world’s fastest growing regions.
Foreign Minister Amina Mohammad said in a US television interview that “two or three Americans” and a British woman were among the militants who led the attack, launched on Saturday and claimed by Somalia’s Al Qaida-linked al Shabaab group.
Mohammad told the “PBS Newshour” show the Americans were “young men, about between maybe 18 and 19” years old. They were of Somali origin or Arab origin, and had lived in the US, “in Minnesota and one other place”, she said.
US authorities are urgently looking into information from the Kenyan government that residents of Western countries, including the United States, may have been among the militants, US security sources said.
“We do monitor very carefully and have for some time been concerned about efforts by al Shabaab to recruit Americans or US persons to come to Somalia,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
He told reporters travelling with US President Barack Obama to the United Nations in New York that he had no direct information that Americans had participated in the attack.
Obama offered US support, saying he believed Kenya – the scene of one of al Qaeda’s first major attacks, in 1998, and a neighbour of chaotic Somalia – would continue to be a regional pillar of stability.
Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, said the United States stood with Kenyans against “this terrible outrage.” [Reuters]