Kenyan forces end Shabaab’s siege at mall

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced today that security forces have ended the four-day siege at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi after troops entered the building and killed or captured the members of the Shabaab assault team.

Kenyatta addressed the Kenyan people on national TV to declare an end to the siege that has gripped the capital for more than four days. Sixty-two civilians and six Kenyan soldiers were killed and more than 250 were wounded during the attack, Kenyatta said, according to the Daily Nation. Security forces killed five Shabaab fighters and captured 11 others.

“We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” Kenyatta said. “We have been badly hurt, but we have been brave, united and strong. Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed. We have defeated our enemies and showed the whole world what we can accomplish.”

The death toll may rise as several floors in the multistory mall collapsed during the fighting.

“Towards the tail end of the operation, three floors of the Westgate mall collapsed and there are several bodies trapped in the rubble including the terrorists,” Kenyatta continued.

Rumors have swirled that Americans, Europeans, and Arabs were among the attackers, but the identities and nationalities of the attackers have not been disclosed.

“Forensic experts are working to ascertain nationalities of the terrorists,” Kenyatta said.

Shabaab denied reports from an unofficial Twitter account that claimed to represent the group’s media office and gave out the names of members of the assault team.

Shabaab also denied that females were members of the assault team.

“HSM [Shabaab] hereby categorically denies the involvement of any woman in Operation,” the group said. “We have an adequate number of young men who are fully committed & we do not employ our sisters in such military operations.”

There has been speculation that Samantha Lewthwaite, a wanted jihadist whose husband was a suicide bomber in Britain, was involved in the Westgate assault.

Kenyatta’s speech took place just minutes after Shabaab’s official Twitter account claimed that its fighters were still battling security forces and that it had a “big surprise” for the Kenyan people.

Shabaab’s assault began Saturday, Sept. 21, when several heavily armed small teams entered the mall from different entrances and attempted to separate Muslims from non-Muslims. Shabaab fighters gunned down the non-Muslims, took hostages, and repelled Kenyan attempts to retake the mall until earlier today. Kenyan officials had previously claimed on Monday night that the mall was cleared of Shabaab fighters.

The Westgate attack is the worst terrorist act by al Qaeda and its allies in Kenya since the 1998 bombing at the US Embassy in the Kenyan capital that killed 212 people, including 12 Americans. Al Qaeda executed the 1998 bombing; some of al Qaeda’s top leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Saif al Adel, were indicted for their roles in ordering and executing the suicide attack.

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in East Africa, and the Muslim Youth Center, which is a branch of Shabaab, have conducted a string of smaller attacks and plots in northern Kenya and the capital since 2011. The incidents primarily consist shootings, attacks on police and military outposts, and IED and grenade attacks.

Shabaab also demanded that Kenyan forces withdraw from southern Somalia and said it was striving to impose a global Caliphate under sharia, or Islamic law. In a statement released on Twitter today from Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage (Ali Dhere), its official spokesman, the East African terror group laid out the group’s demands. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Rage said that if the “Kenyan government and those in its orbit … want peacefulness and safety, they should leave our country, and stop their intervention in our affairs, and release our captives, and abandon all forms of fighting against our religion.”

“If you refuse, you saw what happened, and this is just the beginning and some of the punishment. So, wait for dark days, for you will need to wail O enemies of the religion and humanity,” Rage said.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • pre-Boomer Marine brat says:

    I call for application of the 24 hour rule on Kenyatta’s announcement.
    “Towards the tail end of the operation, three floors of the Westgate mall collapsed and there are several bodies trapped in the rubble including the terrorists,”
    The President might be saying ‘no one could still be alive in there’ without having proof.
    If so, it’s possible that it might bite him.

  • Ken North says:

    I concur with pre-Boomer Marine brat on the Kenyan spin, although 6-8 weeks may be called for before the truth trickles out on this exercise. Hopefully some of the SAS/GIGN et. al. tier ones “advising” on this will provide some greater tactical clarity contributing to the “hard lessons learned” library.
    I am highly suspect of the claim that 11 shooters were captured. Of the dozens of complex attacks since Munich, 1972, that would probably be a first. It’s possible that they captured some support crews from the local Somali community, or conceivably a few of the “coverts” in the crowd. But, frankly, AQ’s time-proven template calls for this to end with massive detonations. We really don’t know at this point what the casualty figures actually are, or whether, like Beslan, they will be significantly understated for reasons of State.
    In any event, we should not discount the possibility that this was a test run that they will after-action well before moving it further west.

  • Tan says:

    Now I know I was right : shopping is very Dangerous

  • kush dragon says:

    “We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,”
    What? How in the world does Kenyatta draw that conclusion? Shabaab achieved exactly what it wanted, all of Kenya is terrorized and its likely some countries contributing troops to the Somalia AU mission will begin to have second thoughts. Add to that the disproportionate casualties suffered by the Kenyan security forces and people, and the fact that it took 3-4 days to finish this group off. It’s amazing how politicians can spin a clear defeat such as this into a victory.

  • gb says:

    So…is the Shabaab surprise that 11 cowards would surrender?

  • Khalid Ibun walid says:

    A clever person will see through the lie of Kenyatta. The killed people and now want to lie to us.

  • J says:

    Suicide attackers have failed to detonate on numerous occasions, either through their actions or others. This would certainly not be the first, especially is you are going to go all the way back to Munich. It’s certainly rare.

  • TLA says:

    Those 11 will be praying for execution (from a worldly perspective) after a few days of life in an African prison.

  • Ken North says:

    AP now has a report out that Kenyan soldiers fired two RPG’s in an attempt to distract a sniper so hostages could escape. The rounds purportedly inadvertently struck a major support beam, triggering the cascading structural collapse.
    If true, it’s possible that this event could have near simultaneously neutralized the jihadists if the floor collapse either trapped or crushed them in their various redoubts. That could conceivably account for the fact that they were unable to detonate their own IED’s if ignition circuits were disrupted. Idle speculation at this point, but rather doubtful that Kenya will easily acknowledge any fault in this area.
    I have a training film showing al Shabaab troops practicing bounding movement advance and withdrawal as well as room clearing tactics. Their training was at least comparable to any US Infantry AIT course and far superior to any US police training. Unless they were gassed ala the 2002 Dubrovka theater siege, I find it very hard to believe that 11 shooters, bunkered up, were captured alive.

  • . says:

    Commenter Ken North sums it all up in paragraph three of his post.

  • Mr T says:

    Victory? Defeat?
    The attackers will not accomplish their stated purpose therefore they have failed and they always will.
    Innocent people dying is never a victory. This is a lose-lose proposition that stupid jihadists continue to employ to no effect. People die everyday and a few more died that die. It doesn’t change the course of history one bit.
    It’s just dumb and most people will just move on. More jihadists sent to slaughter, more innocents killed.
    It takes a real coward to kill an unarmed child. Lesson learned? Cowards kill more innocents. Take a look around Chicago or Detroit and you will see some of the same stupidity and people die because of it.


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