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Explosions rock besieged Kenya mall; soldiers move in

September 23, 2013|By Robyn Dixon

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A series of blasts rocked a Nairobi mall Monday, the third day of a siege that began when terrorists attacked the Westgate shopping center, killing 69 people and taking hostages.

The explosions rang out about lunchtime Monday, and a pall of black smoke poured from the building as gunfire intensified.

Tanks and soldiers moved in, and an ambulance rushed from the scene. Fire trucks also moved in as the black smoke thickened.

PHOTOS: Kenya mall attack

At least three major explosions were heard as heavy weapons fire reverberated inside the mall. The terrorists were reported to have explosives with them, sparking speculation that the group had detonated bombs.

The gunfire and explosions came after the Kenyan military announced late Sunday the beginning of the final assault to dislodge the terrorists.

After a quiet night, gunfire rang out at dawn and continued sporadically throughout the morning, before the explosions and intense, heavy fighting.

A Somali terror group, Al Shabab, has claimed responsibility for the attack, and a spokesman for the group said Monday that hostages would be killed if there was an assault by Kenyan forces.

The U.S., Israel and Britain reportedly are helping Kenyan security forces confronting the terror group.

By Monday morning, 69 people were dead, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society, and 63 were listed as missing, suggesting that the death toll could go higher. An additional 175 were wounded and about 1,000 people escaped, according to Kenyan authorities.

There was no information on the number of hostages or on the number of people hiding in the mall more than 48 hours after the attack. Amid conflicting reports, Kenyan media suggested Monday that at least 10 hostages were being held.

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Twitter: @latimesdixon

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

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