Kenya Says U.S. Nationals Among Nairobi Attackers

Country's Foreign Minister says U.S. attackers are teens of Somali or Arab origin and that British attacker is a woman

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Stringer / Reuters

A police officer walks towards the edge of a security perimeter put into place a distance from the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, in the early hours of the morning during a standoff operation between Kenyan security forces and gunmen inside the building, September 24, 2013.

During an interview on PBS Newshour on Monday, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed claimed that foreign nationals, including “two or three Americans” and “one Brit,” were among the terrorists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate mall on Saturday, killing more than 60 people and injuring around 200.

The assertion was also made by Kenya’s police chief-of-staff General Julius Karangi, who said that the terrorists, members of the Somali militant group al-Shabab, were a “multinational collection from all over the world.”

Mohamed told PBS that the American gunmen had spent time in Minnesota, were aged 18 or 19, and of Somali or Arab origin. She added that the British attacker was a female who had participated in terrorist attacks in the past. The U.S. State Department said it lacked the evidence needed to confirm the identities and nationalities of the attackers.

Meanwhile, the remaining civilians being held hostage in the high-end shopping center are still alive, claimed a message published on Tuesday on a new Twitter account widely believed to be operated by al-Shabab.

Proclamations of success issued by local authorities on social media platforms on Monday night proved premature, as the standoff with Islamist terrorists entered its fourth day on Tuesday morning in the Kenyan capital and al-Shabab continued to taunt security forces with its Twitter feed. “You can put on a brave face but you’re shaken,” said one message. “Your spirit is on the wane & your leaders lack the moral fibre to do the right thing.”

Gunfire and explosions continued to echo through the halls of the Westgate mall as Kenyan commandos inched closer to clearing the building where an unknown number of militants are stubbornly holding out. According to figures compiled by AFP, more than 10 suspected militants have been arrested and three have been killed during the siege.

The al-Shabab attack is largely believed to have been motivated by the continued presence in Somalia of Kenyan troops, who invaded the country in 2011 following a series of kidnappings orchestrated by al-Shabab inside Kenya.

However, Kenyan authorities said that the Westgate atrocity would not result in the withdrawal of their troops.  “I think we’re more strengthened in our resolve to do our best to uproot al-Shabab everywhere and anywhere we find them,” said Mohamed during her interview with PBS. “We went into Somalia not because we liked going into Somalia. We went in because we needed to protect our security and economic interests.”

More: Kenya’s Somali Population Fear Reprisals After Mall Attack