The hostage situation at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi entered its second day Sunday with 62 people confirmed dead and 175 injured by Al-Shabaab militants.
Addressing the nation from State House, Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta Sunday evening urged Kenyans to be patient as security forces worked to bring the situation to a close.
“We are calling for patience and ask for understanding at this time. Our agencies are working to neutralise the terrorists as soon as possible,” he said during a joint Press briefing with former prime minister Raila Odinga and former deputy prime minister Musalia Mudavadi among others. Also present were members of the African Diplomatic Corps.
By the time we were going to press Sunday evening, Kenyan security personnel had launched an intense operation to rescue the remaining hostages and subdue the terrorists.
President Kenyatta confirmed that the militants included both men and women and were between 10 and 15.
The terrorists stormed the mall on Saturday afternoon and opened fire on shoppers. The gun and grenade assault continued into a second day Sunday as multi security agencies planned how to end the standoff.
The attack has been condemned by world leaders who have expressed their solidarity with Kenya. They included United Nations Secretary-General Bank Ki-Moon who telephoned the President to express solidarity with Kenyans.
The UN Security Council also released a statement Sunday afternoon condemning the attacks.
The attacks at the popular mall, home to major international brands, is expected to have a major impact on the country’s economy especially tourism, which was on a recovery path.
During the joint press briefing, Mr Odinga called on foreign governments not to issue travel advisories, as such actions would disrupt the country’s economy.
“This will hurt the economy of our country. Tourism is important for Kenya and we want these governments to treat this as an isolated incident.”
Many shops remained closed Sunday including all Nakumatt branches across the city.
Elite units of the military and other security agencies were on the ground dealing with the hostage crisis at the mall.
Some of the people reported to have been killed during the attack include renowned Ghanaian poet Prof Kofi Awoonor, 78, who was in the country for the Storymoja Hay Festival, which was cancelled. His son was injured and treated at a local hospital before being discharged.
Others are journalist Ruhila Adatia, of Radio Africa, prominent lawyer and a board member of Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Peter Simani is also said to have been in the mall.
President Kenyatta’s nephew and friend were among those killed on Saturday.
Most hospitals around the city were operating at full capacity as some of the wounded.