Explosions, gunfire and smoke emanated from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, the third day of fighting between Islamic militants and government forces that has resulted in dozens of deaths and close to 200 injuries.
The Kenyan government has vowed to press forward in the siege and says it has reclaimed most of the mall in the capital city, reports The New York Times. It also claims to have freed most of the hostages taken during the attack, which began Saturday. Between 10 and 15 insurgents have holed up on the third floor and continue fighting.
Col. Cyrus Oguna of the Kenya Defense forces said there are fewer than 10 hostages remaining.
A Kenyan police security officer runs for cover near the Westgate Mall Monday.
Elite Kenyan forces are engaged in heavy fighting within the mall, and at least two have been woudned, reports CBS News. Israeli forces are reportedly providing assistance.
Islamic extremists al-Shabab has claimed credit for the attack, saying it is retribution for Kenyan military operations in the group's native Somalia. In a series of statements on Saturday, al-Shabaab said it had repeatedly warned the neighboring Kenyan government to remove all forces from Somalia, and that failure to do so would have "severe consequences."
"By Land, air and sea, #Kenyan forces invaded our Muslim country, killing hundreds of Muslims in the process and displacing thousands more," it said in an online statement translated by Jihadology, a website dedicated to collecting extremist materials. "The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of the Kenyan invaders."
The statement said the group had been responsible for more than 100 Kenyan deaths in this attack, and that it had escorted all Muslims from the mall before commencing the attack.
"There will be no negotiations whatsoever at #Westgate," the group said, adding that it remained in contact with the extremist fighters inside the mall and would soon release audio recordings from them.
Paramedics and police officers run outside the Westgate Mall after heavy shooting started Monday.
The death toll at the mall remains unclear. The U.S. State Department released a statement Sunday afternoon that 59 were dead and 175 were injured. Among the dead are Australians, British, Canadian, French, Ghanaian and Somali citizens, as well as many Kenyans. At least five Americans have been injured, but there have not yet been any reports of U.S. deaths.
U.S. military and law enforcement officials are providing advice and assistance to Kenyan officials, said deputy spokesperson Marie Harf, and coordinating with the U.N. for further assistance. The U.S. embassy in Nairobi remains open and is helping to monitor the situation.
Armed police take position during a gun battle outside the Westgate Mall Saturday, soon after the first attacks began.
The U.S. designated al-Shabaab a terrorist organization in 2008.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms" over the weekend. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "totally reprehensible."
These unconfirmed tweets from people in the area show the smoke rising from the mall on the third day of fighting:
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