The terror attack on a Kenyan shopping centre that has left 69 dead was being led by the white English widow of a 7/7 bomber, the United Kingdom’s online Daily Mail newspaper reported last night.
Soldiers said a white woman wearing a veil was shouting orders to gunmen in Arabic during the bloody massacre inside the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.
Islamist terror group Al Shabab claimed it carried out the atrocity in which 69 people from different nationalities were killed and 175 people left injured.
It said last night on Twitter that Samantha Lewthwaite, the ‘white widow’ of London 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay, was ‘in their ranks’ and a ‘brave lady’.
Fifteen hostages were still trapped inside the shopping centre after more than 24 hours of carnage.
The attack saw men, women and children slaughtered if they could not recite the Koran or name the mother of the Prophet Mohammed.
As well as boasting Lewthwaite was with them, Al Shabaab claimed two British men from London, Liban Adam, 23, and Ahmed Nasir Shirdoon, 24, were among the ‘holy warriors’ in the attack.
The group is said to be highly organised, with huge amounts of ammunition as well as night vision equipment.
As at press time yesterday, the BBC reported that Kenyan security forces said they were attempting to clear the Westgate shopping complex in Nairobi to bring to an end the deadly three-day siege.
Explosions and heavy gunfire were reported earlier as soldiers stormed the mall, where suspected al-Shabab militants were thought to be holed up.
The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) said three “terrorists” had been killed and all escape routes sealed off.
Flames and thick smoke continued to rise from the complex as darkness fell.
CNN earlier reported that heavy gunfire sent aid workers and journalists scrambling outside Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall yesterday afternoon, more than an hour after a Kenyan government official said security forces had taken full control of the four-story building from terrorists.
It was unclear if any hostages remained inside the building, but authorities expect the number to be “very, very minimal,” if any remain, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said at a news briefing.
Most had already been evacuated, he said, the third day of the siege.
The Kenyan Red Cross said that 62 people had died since the Saturday attack by gunmen from the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terror group. The agency had previously reported 69 deaths. Some bodies had been counted twice, it said on Twitter.
Dark smoke that rose from the building after yesterday’s assault was from fires set by the gunmen to distract forces from the assault, Lenku said.
Terrorists appear to be on the run inside the mall, which the Interior Minister said had been sealed off to prevent their escape.
“We are in charge of the situation, our people are safe,” he said.
Kenyan authorities have arrested “around four” people on suspicion of involvement in the attack, the Interior Ministry told CNN. The arrests were made at the airport, the agency said on Twitter.
The country’s Immigration Department said in a tweet that it had increased security at entry and exit points.
Meanwhile, the Star newspaper reported that elite Israeli anti-terror commandos were last night on their way to free hostages at the Westgate shopping Mall. The AFP reported that special forces have joined the fighting at the luxury mall.
“The Israelis have just entered the shopping centre and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured,”a source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Reuters confirmed the Israeli’s involvement, quoting a security source saying Israeli advisers are helping with ‘negotiating strategy’ to end the siege. In Israel, Foreign ministry spokesperson Paul Hirschson refused to confirm or deny that its forces were involved
“We don’t make a habit of commenting on security co-operation of any kind that there may or may not be,” he told AFP. The Westgate Shopping Mall is owned by an Israeli company.
However, at present, Kenya’s forces are taking the lead in the hostage crisis. If there is any involvement by foreign nations, it’s likely to be in a purely advisory role. It has already been reported that Israeli “security specialists” are on the ground in Nairobi giving advice, although this has not officially been confirmed, a BBC report said.
According to the BBC Kenya is seen as a largely pro-Western country in a strategically important continent that is facing growing instability from the threat of Islamic extremism.
Western interests in Kenya have also been targets in the past —most notably the 1998 attack on the US embassy in Nairobi carried out by al-Qaeda.
In another development, the Kenyan Daily Nation newspaper reported that President Uhuru Kenyatta has submitted a second request to be excused from ‘continuous presence’ at the ICC trial.
The defence has requested that the court should instead make use of a video link in instances where the President will be physically required to be at The Hague.
Kenyan Vice-President Williman Ruto who is facing trial at the ICC has been allowed to go back to Kenya to help in the operation.
The newspaper reported in its online update of the unfolding events that KDF had twittered that four of it personnel sustained injuries and were take to hospital for treatment and added that “most of the hostages have been rescued and security forces have taken control of most parts of the building.”