NAIROBI, Sept 21 — Kenyan security forces deployed at an upmarket shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, while authorities urged the public to stay away after it was rocked by explosions and gunfire.
The blasts occurred at about 12.30pm at the Westgate Mall, west of the city centre, and were followed by shooting, causing panicked shoppers to flee the building. At least 10 people were killed, the Associated Press reported, citing its reporters.
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 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 footage broadcast by Nation TV.
The motive of the attack wasn’t immediately clear. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group in neighbouring 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.
Marco Lui, a Bloomberg correspondent who was on the second floor of the mall when the attack started, said the two explosions happened within about five minutes of each other.
“We heard a noise from the ground floor and people started running to the parking area on the rooftop,” said Lui. “They were panicking and then the second blast went off and people were even more panicked.”
Lui and a friend who were visiting the mall escaped by jumping over a fence on the roof and onto the first floor of a neighbouring building. Both were unharmed. — Bloomberg