Plumes of smoke coloured the air, helicopters whirred overhead, and low flying aircraft flew in lazy arcs as the siege of the Westgate mall in Nairobi, capital city of Kenya, dragged into its third day.

On Saturday, militants, believed to be allied to the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab group, stormed an upscale shopping centre in Westland neighbourhood, killing scores, wounding hundreds and taking untold numbers hostage. On Monday, Cabinet Secretary for Interior Ole Lenku told reporters that three militants had been killed, the death toll was revised down from 68 to 62, 200 hostages had been released and security forces were apparently in control of the building. Yet the crackle of gunfire continued to echo around the posh neighbourhood, as 11 soldiers were injured in the attack and officials insisted the siege would end soon.

Chief of Defence General Julius Karangi told Associated Press that the militants comprised a multitude of nationalities.

In a side development, the International Criminal Court at The Hague excused Kenya’s Deputy President from his crimes-against-humanity trial for a week so that he could return home to deal with the hostage crisis.

William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta are on trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the violence that marked the general election in 2008.