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Kenya mall attack: Three soldiers killed, officials say

September 24, 2013|By Nicholas Soi and Robyn Dixon

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Three Kenyan soldiers were killed confronting terrorists who had attacked and seized Nairobi's Westgate mall, military officials said Tuesday.

The operation to secure the shopping center continued during the day, with explosions and sporadic shooting being heard. Officials said Kenyan forces were combing the building for other gunmen and explosives. Six terrorists had been killed, they said.

According to Kenyan officials, no hostages remain in the mall.

"Regrettably, three of KDF [Kenyan Defense Forces] soldiers involved in Westgate Mall rescue operations have succumbed to their injuries," a military spokesman said on Twitter.

The confirmation came as some Kenyans announced on Twitter that they were mourning soldiers who had died in the attack.

Ruth Mutegi tweeted, "My cousin was only 28 yrs old, a vibrant KDF soldier who has left behind a wife and a kid barely one year old. He died protecting others."

One Kenyan on Twitter called on officials to be honest about military causalities.

"The government should be truthful on the KDF soldiers killed. At Homa Bay we are already mourning the death of Jacktone Puodi, a KDF soldier," said Jared Owuor Aol. "A lot of people are very angry and confused about the wrong reporting by the government," she added.

The Interior Ministry said, "We condole with them, say a prayer for their families and friends."

The terror group Shabab, which has claimed responsibility for the assault on the mall, continued to use Twitter to post its own version of events, claiming that casualties were higher than Kenyan authorities had admitted.

Successive Shabab Twitter accounts have been closed in the past few days, only to spring up again.

There is still no clarity on the number of hostages held by the gunman in the siege, and their fates. Early Tuesday, Kenyan officials referred to rescued hostages, without offering details of how many had been saved or where they had been taken.

"Wishing quick recovery to the injured hostages and service men. I send my condolence to the bereaved families," police chief David Kimaiyo tweeted early in the day.

Amid a blitz of unity and patriotism on social media, some Kenyans had begun to question the official account.

"There is a side of this story we should talk about when all is over. The police casualties. Friendly fire. Huge," tweeted Robert Alai, a prominent figure on Kenyan social networks.

Speculation mounted that wanted British terrorism suspect Samantha Lewthwaite may have been involved in the attack, after Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said a British woman and several Americans were involved.

However, her account contradicted that of Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku, who said no women were involved.

Kenyan media said witnesses who survived the attack claimed to have seen a woman leading the gunmen in the early hours of the assault.

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Twitter: @latimesdixon

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Soi is a special correspondent.


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