Special forces in final assault on attackers
What you need to know:
- Israeli forces and officers from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations were also assisting their Kenyan counterparts.
- Officials were understandably tight-lipped about how the attempt to rescue the remaining people would be made but it was clear preparations were underway.
A combination of Kenyan defence and internal security security forces Sunday evening commence the final stage of an assault on the Westgate Shopping Mall to free an as yet unknown number of hostages and other people still in the building.
At 6.15 pm, a Nation reporter at the scene said the helicopters surveying the scene were flying low and there was sustained gunfire in the building with the attackers reportedly holed in a room with bulletproof glass.
The assault is understood to involve officers and soldiers from three units of the Kenya Defence Forces, the Regular and Administration police plus the Anti-Terror Police Unit.
Nation reporters could identify officers and soldiers from the Gilgil-based 20 Para Battalion who are understood to be working with the Special Forces and their colleagues from the Rangers Strike Force.
The 20 Para battalion has traditionally been the best trained unit of the Kenya Defence Forces and their roles as set out in the army are “to conduct airborne operations and special operations in both conventional and unconventional warfare”.
Others involved are the Recce Company of the General Service Unit.
Israeli forces and officers from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations were also assisting their Kenyan counterparts.
Officials were understandably tight-lipped about how the attempt to rescue the remaining people would be made but it was clear preparations were underway.
In the morning, the journalists who had initially pitched camp in the mall’s parking lot were relocated to Peponi Road, 300 metres away.
Helicopters continued circling overhead and several truckloads of soldiers arrived.
Later in the day, two large mobile cranes were taken there, with the Nairobi City Fire Brigade also coming and going.
In a midday press briefing, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said there had been no communication from the attackers and that “this remains a national security operation.”
“We’re in control of the remote CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) control centre,” he said.
This suggests that they have at least seen the attackers, one of whom survivors said is a ruthless woman.
Mr Ole Lenku said Government’s paramount responsibility is to ensure people still held in the mall come out alive.
Additional reporting by Zadock Angira