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Westgate mall standoff continues as death toll rises

Kenya Defense Forces arrive at the Westgate mall in Nairobi on September 22, 2013. They were locked in a firefight with gunmen inside the mall on Sunday. AFP PHOTO
Kenya Defense Forces arrive at the Westgate mall in Nairobi on September 22, 2013. They were locked in a firefight with gunmen inside the mall on Sunday. AFP PHOTO 

Kenyan security forces were locked in a fierce battle with gunmen inside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on Sunday, in a final attempt to end a siege that had left at least 59 people dead according to Interior Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku.

Mr Ole Lenku said the death toll in the attack which occurred on Saturday had risen to 59 with at least 175 people injured. He said more than 1,000 people had been evacuated from the mall.

Mr Ole Lenku said the situation was complicated because the government wanted to ensure that individuals who were trapped inside the mall were moved out to safety.

"We want to save as many people as possible. It's a delicate balance but the security forces want to make sure the balance is achieved," Mr Ole Lenku told the media on Sunday.

According to Mr Ole Lenku the security forces had managed to isolate attackers who were still inside the mall. However, he could not disclose details of the operation for security reasons.

The Somali government on Sunday condemned the attack saying the Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the attack, was a common enemy for both Somali and Kenyans.

The terror group on Saturday claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack in a tweet, saying the incident was in retaliation for Kenya’s push into Somalia two years ago.

"The attack at #WestGateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders," the group had said on Twitter.

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