Somali-based militants claim responsibility for Kenyan shopping mall massacre in which at least 39 have died

  • Security guards wheel out bodies in shopping trolleys from Westlands Shopping Centre
  • Foreign Secretary William Hague confirms British citizens are caught up in the terrorist attack in Nairobi
  • The US State Department has also confirmed Americans were at the shopping centre
  • Somalian terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has links to Al-Qaeda, has now claimed responsibility for the attack
  • The terrorist organisation released a statement released saying it warned Kenya to remove troops from Somalia
  • Hostages are being held by at least five attackers still in building
  • The army and special forces are helping police flush out the gunmen
  • Upmarket mall is a favourite shopping spot for expats and wealthy Kenyans
  • Police opened fire after gunmen launched attack at midday today
  • Kenya Red Cross says at least 39 dead though police not given exact toll
  • Witness says attackers told shoppers non-Muslims were the targets
Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi September 21, 2013.  Credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi September 21, 2013.
Credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

By ELLIE BUCHDAHL and STUART WOLEDGE

British and American nationals have undoubtedly been caught up in the ‘callous and cowardly and brutal’ terror attack at a shopping centre in Kenya that has left 39 people dead and 150 injured, according to Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Mr Hague said ‘we should be ready for that and aware of that’ as he revealed a rapid deployment team is being sent to Kenya to help in the aftermath of the atrocity at an upmarket shopping centre in the capital.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, a pregnant woman was among several Britons caught up in the attack.

Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab has now claimed responsibility for the atrocity in which men armed with guns and grenades stormed the mall and targeted non-Muslims.

Terrorist gunmen remain at the scene and police officers supported by the army are still fighting to bring the situation to an end.

Mr Hague added the Government’s security committee COBRA had met and was sending a deployment team to ‘re-enforce’ the British Consulate team in Nairobi.

‘Our High Commission staff in Nairobi are working very hard, visiting hospitals, trying to make sure that they are aware of British nationals who might have been in the area or caught up in this,’ he said.

‘We are sending a rapid deployment team to reinforce that work, which will be particularly important if the situation carries on. We have offered the Kenyan authorities any other assistance and of course we will keep in touch with them about that.’

Hannah Chisholm, a Briton visiting Nairobi, said she and 60 others barricaded themselves into a large storeroom.

She told the BBC: ‘We kept running to different places but the shots were getting louder so we barricaded ourselves along with about 60 others into a large storeroom. There were children hiding with us as well as someone who had been shot.’

She added: ‘The gunfire was loud and we were scared but at that point we thought the gunmen were thieves so we assumed they wouldn’t try to reach the storeroom.’

Read more at The Daily Mail

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Between a rock and a hard place

By Melanie Phillips

In Israel, an enormous call-up of reservists suggests that a ground invasion of Gaza is imminent – and this morning’s further attacks on Tel Aviv make that more likely still. The prospect of a ground invasion fills Israelis with dread. A ground invasion means that Israeli soldiers will go into Gaza street by street and house by house to destroy the rocket launchers, rockets and ammunition dumps where they have been stored. Many have been situated in residential neighbourhoods, for two reasons: first, to deter the Israel Defence Force from attacking them for fear of killing civilians as a consequence; and second, to ensure that many Gazan civilians are indeed killed, thus guaranteeing an international outcry so that Israel will be forced to stop its operation to destroy these weapons.

Such a ground operation, where from past experience many of these places have been booby-trapped, carry the certainty of a high casualty rate among the Israeli soldiers.

That is why Israel today waits in dread. People in Britain and elsewhere who have the luxury of living in a country that has not been under existential attack for six decades have absolutely no idea of the extraordinary pressure under which so many Israeli families live. Their children are conscripted into the armed forces because Israel is under permanent threat of attack by an Arab and Muslim world which is determined to wipe Israel off the map.

And so these young Israelis are sent to fight and some of them — maybe many of them — will die, in a country where every such life that is lost is a national tragedy because the Jewish people was almost wiped out half a century ago, and their families will be torn apart – all because millions of murderous fanatics who believe the Jews must not be allowed to live in their own historic homeland continue to try to destroy that homeland and murder as many Jews as possible. And many more of Israel’s children will die if the Israel Defence Force starts a ground war in Gaza. Yet Israelis also know that if the rockets and missiles from Gaza are to stop, a ground war may be the only way to destroy these weapons since there is a limit to what can be achieved by aerial bombardment.

This is the kind of rock and very hard place indeed dilemma under which Israelis live week in, week out – and have done for more than sixty years, all because a bunch of fanatics are bent on their annihilation. Yet none of this is acknowledged by those in Britain, whose hearts bleed for the Palestinians who are the aggressors in this conflict but never for the Israelis who are their victims – and whose motives in mounting such a military operation must therefore be assumed to be malevolent or evil.

Among western leaders, the hypocrisy is particularly odious. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has been saying Israel has the right to defend itself against attack, nevertheless also says :

‘Israel does have to bear in mind that it is when ground invasions have taken place in previous conflicts that they have lost international support and a great deal of sympathy around the world.’

In the US similarly there are reportsthat Obama is telling Israel not to mount a ground invasion –because the likely toll of civilian casualties would benefit Hamas. So according to these leaders, Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself — but not actually to take the action that will defeat its attackers! And just whose international support might Israel lose by such a casualty toll? Why, the support of leaders like Hague and Obama!  What hypocrisy, furthermore, from those who have been bombing the living daylights out of Afghanistan but impose a totally different standard on Israel.

Of course, no-one in Israel imagines that even the most successful operation in Gaza will defeat the Hamas. The most they hope for is to degrade its capabilities for mass murder so that Israelis can have a few years free of attack before they have to do the same thing all over again.

The reason why this conflict goes on and on in this interminable way, leaving Israel in a state of permanent siege, is quite simple. It is that the so-called civilised world, for all its empty pledges of support for Israel, actually leaves it to swing in the wind.

It persists in casting the conflict entirely falsely as a fight over land boundaries. It totally ignores the Judeophobic incitement to hatred and murder of Israelis with which the Palestinians indoctrinate their children; it totally ignores the Nazi-style (and yes , it is straight from the Nazi lexicon) deranged racist demonisation of the Jews as cosmically evil people responsible for all the ills in the world and controlling everything that moves in the west; it totally ignores the statements made even by so-called moderates such as Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians  will never accept Israel as a Jewish state, thus committing them to permanent war against it; it totally ignores the fact that this is a religious war against the Jews (read the Hamas Charter); it totally ignores the gross inversion and misrepresentation of history by which the Arabs have concealed the fact that it is only the Jewish peoplefor whom Israel was ever their national homeland.

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