Kenyan security forces were deployed at an upmarket shopping mall in the capital and authorities urged the public to stay away after it was rocked by explosions and gunfire, according to Bloomberg.com.
The blasts occurred at about 12:30 p.m. at the Westgate Mall, west of the city center, and were followed by shooting, causing panicked shoppers to flee the building. At least 10 people were killed, the Associated Press reported.
Rescue workers are unable to access some patrons who are hiding inside the mall, Abbas Gullet, secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross, said in an interview aired by Nation TV, a Nairobi-based broadcaster. Helicopters were seen flying over the building.
’’Police are at the scene and the area is surrounded,’’ Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said on his official Twitter account. Dozens of people were shown escaping from a back entrance to the building in live broadcast footage.
The motive of the attack wasn’t immediately clear. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group in neighboring Somalia that is affiliated to al-Qaeda, has threatened to carry out attacks in Kenya after the country deployed its army to southern Somalia in October 2011 to fight the group.
‘Not ordinary thugs’
Alan Boswell, a freelance reporter who has been outside the shopping center, told Al-Jazeera that a strong firefight broke out earlier in the day, and that there are still people being evacuated from the mall, some on stretchers.
“Many of them are quite terrified – they’re crying, they’re clutching their children,” said Boswell.
“An unknown number of attackers, he said, were still inside and in control of certain parts of the mall, where a heavy security presence remains.
“There’s been no indication that [the situation] is under control,” said Boswell.
One report says 80 people are trapped in the basement. Police say they have managed to escort some shoppers to safety but are still trying to capture the gunmen, Al-Jazeera reports.