A large explosion today rocked the upmarket Kenyan mall where Islamic extremists are holding hostages after launching an attack which left at least 68 people dead.
Witnesses at the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi said the explosion - which was followed by silence - is by far the largest as the siege nears the 36-hour mark. Up to 15 militant attackers were in the mall on Sunday night holding an unknown number of captives, said Kenyan officials, although estimates have been made at around 30 hostages. More than 175 people have been wounded.
The Kenyan military stormed the four-story mall and there have been sporadic gun battles with extremists. Kenyan troops were seen carrying in at least two rocket-propelled grenades - and, earlier, military helicopters hovered over the mall.
It came after the wife of a U.S. embassy worker was identified as one of the dead. Four Americans are among the 175 wounded in the attack by al Qaeda-linked extremists, who opened fire in the mall after reportedly allowing Muslims to flee.
Reuters had earlier reported that Secretary of State John Kerry said the wife of a U.S. diplomat working for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed.
However the State Department said that it was in fact the wife of a national working for the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.
... Five hostages were released on Sunday at around 2am local time. It is thought that Israeli soldiers are assisting with the rescue mission: 'The Israelis have entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured,' a source told AFP.
Two wounded Kenyan security forces officers were carried out of the mall this morning after a barrage of gunfire was heard.
Two gunmen have been killed by authorities, but as many as eight remain, CNN reported. Is is believed that one of the militant fighters is a woman.
Jonathan Maungo, a private security guard, told Reuters: 'They entered through blood, that's how they'll leave.'
... Al-Shabaab, also known as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), claimed responsibility for the atrocity on Twitter.
The terrorist organization said that it had previously warned the Kenyan government that, if they did not remove military forces from Somalia, there would be 'severe consequences'.
'For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it's time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land,' terrorists tweeted, before launching into a chilling account of the attack as it unfolded.
The militant group wrote: 'The Mujahideen entered Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the Kenyan Kuffar inside their own turf.'
The organization claimed it had killed more than 100 Kenyan 'kuffar', a derogatory term used to describe non-Muslims.
'Since our last contact, the Mujahideen inside the mall confirmed to @HSM_Press that they killed over 100 Kenyan kiffar & battle is ongoing.' the tweets continued.
'What Kenyans are witnessing today at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military, albeit largely miniscule in nature,' read the final tweet.The BBC similarly reports:
"The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted,'' Elijah Kamau told AP.
British journalist Daniel Howden at Westgate told the BBC that one witness explained how he was released by the attackers after showing his ID with a Muslim-sounding name.
An Indian man who was standing next to him was asked for the name of the Prophet's mother and when he was unable to answer, he was shot dead, the witness told him.
Some of the attackers were reportedly dressed in hijabs, but it was unclear whether they were men or women.
One man reported seeing a man who spoke Arabic change his clothes then leave the shopping centre amongst other people being rescued.And then there is this:
Al-Shabaab is claiming that there are American gunmen among those still holed up in the Westgate mall in a standoff with Kenyan and Israeli special forces.