Kenyan troops and rescue workers scoured the wreckage of a Nairobi shopping mall on Wednesday for bodies and booby-trapped explosives after a four-day siege by Islamist gunmen left 67 dead and dozens more missing.
Rescuers wore face masks and some soldiers wrapped scarves around their mouths because of an overpowering stench inside the Westgate centre, once the capital’s most upmarket mall. A large part of the complex has collapsed after heavy explosions and a fierce fire.
Across Kenya, flags flew at half mast at the start of three days of official mourning.Somalia’s Al-Shebab rebels claimed on Twitter that 137 hostages they had seized all died, figures impossible to verify and higher than the number of people officially registered as missing. The Al-Qaeda-linked group also accused Kenyan troops of using “chemical agents” and explosives to end the stand-off.
President Uhuru Kenyatta announced an end to the 80-hour bloodbath late Tuesday, with the “immense” loss of 61 civilians and six members of the security forces.
Police said the death toll was provisional, with the Kenyan Red Cross reporting 71 people listed as missing.
Top forensic experts and investigators from Israel, the US and Britain are supporting Kenyan teams, officials said, with many questions remaining over the identity of the attackers, the possible presence of a British woman and American jihadists, and how the cell got such large quantities of weapons and ammunition into the complex.
An AFP reporter outside the bullet-riddled mall saw teams of sniffer dogs, which will check for explosives and victims buried under the rubble of a collapsed part of the building.