As the standoff between Islamist militants and Kenyan forces at an upmarket mall in Nairobi entered its third day on Monday, the Al-Qaeda-linked Somalian rebels threatened to begin killing their hostages.
“Israelis and Kenyan forces have tried to enter Westgate [mall] by force but they could not, the mujahideen will kill the hostages if the enemies use force,” said al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage in an online statement quoted by Reuters.
Sustained gunfire and explosions were heard coming from the Westgate mall early Monday morning. Sixty-eight people have been killed and more than 170 injured since the terrorists entered the shopping center on Saturday, strafing civilians with machine gun fire and lobbing hand grenades.
All efforts are underway to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion
— Kenya Defence Forces (@kdfinfo) September 22, 2013
While Kenya’s defense forces say that a majority of the hostages have been rescued from the besieged shopping center, an unspecified number of people remain in al-Shabab’s hands in the mall’s supermarket, where the militants are reportedly holed up.
The Somalian rebels have long held a vendetta against their neighbors since Kenya sent ground troops into Somalia in 2011. In the past year, al-Shabab has faced major set backs after being dislodged from its coastal stronghold in Kismayo in 2012 by Kenyan troops and ceding strategic ground to African Union forces.