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Al-Shabab: Death toll rises to 68 in Kenya shopping mall massacre

By The Citizen
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The Kenya government confirmed on Sunday that the death toll from the attack by Al-Shabab gunmen in a high-brow shopping centre in Nairobi has risen to 68.

This comes as nine more bodies were discovered inside the Westgate shopping centre including that of Ghanaian poet and diplomat Kofi Awoonor.

Awoonor died on Saturday, aged 78, from injuries sustained in the attack on Westgate Mall.

The Ghanaian government confirmed Awoonor's death early Sunday morning. Awoonor's son had been shot in the shoulder during the attack, for which Somali militant group Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility, and was treated and discharged from hospital late on Saturday.

Awoonor was in Nairobi to speak at the Storymoja Hay Festival, a four-day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling. Along with Ghanaian poets Nii Parkes and Kwame Dawes, he was due to perform on Saturday evening as part of a showcase of award-winning poetry from both sides of Africa.

Kenyan officials vowed that the siege would 'end tonight' as a major assault is ongoing against Al-Shabaab gunmen in an attempt to end the siege by the religious extremists.

Up to 15 terrorists remain inside the centre, holding an unknown number of hostages. At least 49 people are still missing.

Gunshots and explosions were heard in and around the Westgate shopping centre and soldiers were seen moving into the building. Helicopters hovered overhead.

Police conceded that the death toll could be 'much, much higher', after reports from inside of multiple bodies.

The attack began when gunmen from the Islamist Shabaab group burst into the upmarket mall yesterday afternoon armed with guns and grenades. Unconfirmed reports suggest women as well as men took part in the attack.

Some of those killed were reportedly executed after failing to recite a Muslim prayer at gunpoint. Others were shot at the entrance to the mall as they tried to escape.

The Kenyan Red Cross estimate at least 200 people have been injured. The group have set up a webpage for anyone worried friends or relatives might be caught up in incident.

A Foreign Office spokesman said three Britons were among those killed and warned the number is likely to rise.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the 'despicable attack,' saying it was an act of 'appalling brutality.'

'Because the situation is ongoing, we should prepare ourselves for further bad news,' he added.

More than 1,000 people have so far been evacuated from the shopping centre but an unknown number remain inside.

Security forces have taken control of the upper and lower levels of the building, and an army spokesman told Sky News they were trying to secure the second floor where the terrorists may be hiding.

Other reports suggested the attackers are holed up in a toilet block next to a supermarket on the ground floor of the complex.

Two Canadians are confirmed to have been killed in the attack, while two French citizens and a Dutch woman are also among the dead.

The Somalia-based Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility and warned of further attacks.

President Kenyatta said one of his nephews and his nephew's fiancee were among the 68 people confirmed killed.

'They shall not get away with their despicable and beastly acts,' the President said in an emotional speech to the nation. 'We will punish the masterminds swiftly and indeed very painfully', he said.