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Death toll rises in al-Shabab attack on a Nairobi mall

Fresh gunfire has been reported at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi a day after a deadly attack by Islamist militants. Al-Shabab gunmen killed at least 68 people and took an unknown number of hostages in the raid.

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Kenya readies mall assault

The Kenyan Red Cross Society reported Sunday that the death toll has reached 68 after nine more bodies were recovered in a rescue mission.

Earlier, Interior Minister Joseph Lenku said more than 175 people were wounded. Over 1,000 people had been rescued from the shopping center, he added, saying police forces were in control of the CCTV room.

Military and police forces have been fighting with al-Shabab militants for nearly 24 hours after fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Somali group stormed the mall Saturday afternoon.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, the worst act of terrorism in Kenya since a US embassy bombing 15 years ago, saying they specifically targeted non-Muslims.

Overnight standoff

Kenyan authorities said the attackers took an unknown number of hostages, leading to the standoff that lasted through the night. Since the assault, security forces have had the assailants surrounded and local TV has reported that the first two floors of the mall have been retaken.

Fresh soldiers from the Kenya Defense Forces were brought in by truck Sunday morning.

Lenku stressed that because hostages were believed to still be in the building, clearing the building was more difficult.

"A number of attackers are still in the building, and range between 10 to 15," he said. "We believe there are some innocent people in the building, that is why the operation is delicate."

"The priority is to save as many lives as possible," Lenku added.

Foreigners among dead

Both Kenyans and foreigners were confirmed dead in the attack, including French and Canadians; the British foreign office also said on Sunday that three Britons were confirmed dead, with the British toll likely to rise.

"Violent extremists continue to occupy Westgate Mall. Security services are there in full force," the United States embassy said in an emergency text message Sunday morning.

The Ghana presidency confirmed that poet and statesman Kofi Awoonor died after being injured.

The Kenya Red Cross has established a center near the mall to trace missing persons.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost family members in the attack, has vowed to stop those responsible.

"We will punish them for this cowardly crime," he said in a televised address.

Westgate mall, which is located in a wealthy area of Nairobi where many United Nations workers and diplomats live, is frequented by many foreign nationals in the city.

dr/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)

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