Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday said he will crackdown on those responsible for the terrorist attack on an upmarket Westgate shopping mall in the capital Nairobi.
He said 39 people had been killed and at least 150 injured.
“We will punish them for this cowardly crime,” Mr. Kenyatta said during a television address.
The President said he also lost family members during the siege.
“I myself have lost loved ones in the Westgate attack,” he said.
Police were seen removing several bodies from the lobby area and the ground floor of the Westgate mall.
One of the attackers, who had been arrested by police and escorted to a nearby hospital, died of his gunshot wounds, according to state house officials.
Special police units were engaged on Saturday evening in a fight with attackers still inside the building, a police source told DPA.
Several people had also been taken hostage.
Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the siege, said they were unwilling to negotiate with the Kenyan government.
“For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land,” the al-Qaeda-linked group tweeted.
The attack using automatic weapons and grenades was “retributive justice for crimes” committed by Kenya’s Army in Somalia, al-Shabaab claimed.
Gripped by fear and panic, hundreds of shoppers earlier streamed out of the Westgate mall, some carrying young children, some bleeding heavily. They cowered behind parked cars and hid behind walls for protection.
“They threw a grenade. They were showing us Arabic writings. If you could read it, you were safe. If you could not read it, they would shoot you,” a witness told DPA.
“One of them shouted, ‘Today, you will know the al-Shabaab in their true colours’” he said.
The Interior Ministry said it had not yet established the gunmen’s background.
Mutea Iringo, the Principal Secretary of the Interior Ministry, said security forces were searching for gunmen still in the building and working to “bring this matter under control.” By the evening, the scene outside the mall remained chaotic.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard, even after special police units had entered the building in an attempt to rescue those still trapped.
An anti-terrorist squad and hostage rescue team were inside, as well as the military.
“I was shot, terrified and not knowing what to do, I crawled on the floor, a Swiss man, named Andrew, who was behind me, was shot in the chest ... Another woman, who was with us was shot. She died,” one witness told DPA.
The attackers also stormed a children’s cooking competition inside the mall that was being hosted by a local radio station. Well-known radio host Ruhilla Adatya was killed.
“There was a loud bang. I thought the building was coming down. I took cover under a car. I saw four men, very young men, with a lot of ammunition strapped to their waist,” Chris Wamalwa, one of those inside, told DPA.
“They shot four men before my eyes. One of them, an Indian couple, was driving out of the basement. They shot at the man. He fell out of the car. I was later evacuated through an emergency exit of the parking lot,” Mr. Wamalwa said.
Seven hostages were taken while shopping at the Nakhumatt supermarket chain inside the mall, but the chain’s management said the gunmen made no demands.
US condemns attack
In Washington, the State Department condemned the “senseless” attack.
“We condemn this senseless act of violence that has resulted in death and injury for many innocent men, women, and children,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
“Our condolences go out to the families and friends of all victims.” There had been reports of US citizens injured in the attack and the embassy was reaching out with assistance, she said.