September 25, 2013 - 15:20 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - As Kenya began three days of mourning on Wednesday, Sept 25, for at least 67 people killed in the siege of a Nairobi mall, it was unclear how many more hostages may have died with the Somali Islamist attackers buried in the rubble, according to Reuters.
Declaring final victory over the al Qaeda-linked gunmen from al Shabaab who stormed the Westgate shopping center on Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that three floors in a part of the mall had collapsed near the end of the operation, leaving an unknown number of bodies under steel and concrete.
It was not clear what caused the structure to come down.
Five militants had been shot dead, Kenyatta said, and six security personnel died in the four days of fighting.
Sixty-one civilians had so far been confirmed dead, Kenyatta added. Kenyan officials declined to say how many of 63 people whom the Red Cross had earlier classed as unaccounted for may also have died in a showdown with guerrillas, who had threatened to kill their hostages and go down fighting.
Eleven people suspected of involvement with the well-planned and executed assault were in custody, the Kenyan president said. But he did not say how many, if any, were gunmen taken alive and how many may have been people arrested elsewhere.
It was also unclear whether intelligence reports of American or British gunmen would be confirmed. Al Shabaab denied that any women took part, after British sources said the fugitive widow of one of the 2005 London suicide bombers might have some role.
The shattered mall, an imposing, Israeli-built symbol of a new prosperity for some in Africa while many remain mired in poverty, lay largely silent overnight, after days of gunfire, explosions and bloodshed. "The operation is now over," Kenyatta told Kenyans in a televised address. "We have ashamed and defeated our attackers."
Several foreigners of many nationalities have already been named among the dead. The mall was a favorite with expatriates.
It is unclear how many foreigners may still be missing.
Regional intelligence experts believe the Nairobi raiders were members of a crack unit loyal to leader Ahmed Godane, who has been seeking to rebrand al Shabaab as a significant international jihadist group.
Al Shabaab had threatened revenge since Kenyan troops joined the war against Islamists in its chaotic northern neighbor two years ago. The group created funding, recruiting and training networks in Kenya. Kenyatta dismissed an al Shabaab demand to pull Kenyan troops from Somalia after the mall siege began.
The attack bears out Western concern that Somalia, a hotspot in the U.S.-led war on Islamist militants across the globe, may be a launchpad for strikes on regional countries even as African troops put them on the defensive in the Horn of Africa state.