Masked gunmen stormed an upmarket mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Saturday and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff killing at least 30, according to police sources.
Witnesses described hearing explosions and gunfire as they fled the Westgate mall premises.
Haron Mwachia, 20, a cleaner at the mall, said he had escaped by climbing over a wall. “I heard several gunshots and managed to run away,” he said. “Two of my colleagues were shot at while trying to escape the scene. There was also an explosion, which I suspect to have been a grenade.”
Vivian Atieno, 26, who works on the first floor of the mall, described “intense shooting,” starting around 11 am, before she escaped through a fire exit.
Stephen Opiyo, 25, who was working at a supermarket there, said: “We heard gunshots and started running, trying to find an escape route. I saw many people who had suffered gunshot injuries, and some have been taken away to hospital.”
Military helicopters hovered overhead as the police kept bystanders away from the scene.
Witnesses described attackers using AK-47 rifles and throwing grenades. The police said they had surrounded the mall, and they were seen clearing the shops one by one.
“Our officers are on the ground, carrying out an evacuation of those inside as they search for the attackers who are said to be inside,” Inspector General David Kimaiyo of the Kenyan police said.
While the authorities said it was too early to determine who was behind the attack, suspicions turned immediately to the Shabab, the Somali militant group that has staged attacks in other African countries that have sent troops to Somalia to help fight the Shabab. Kenyan military forces invaded Somalia in October 2011.
In July 2010, in revenge for Uganda’s troop presence in Somalia, the Shabab killed more than 70 people who had gathered at a restaurant and a rugby field in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, to watch the final match of the World Cup.