Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET.
Terrorists stormed an affluent Nairobi shopping mall on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing machine guns, in a brutal attack that killed at least 39 people. The gunmen weren’t immediately identified, but the Somali militant group al Shabaab had previously threatened to strike the Westgate mall in retaliation for Kenyan military strikes against al Qaeda. The group claimed responsibility for the mall attack on Twitter and vowed more violence.
The mall was hosting a children’s day event when the attack occurred. President Uhuru Kenyatta said 39 people were confirmed dead. Al Shabbab claimed to have killed more than 100 people.
With the story still unfolding, it’s worth following on Twitter the Kenyan interior ministry, Kenyan police, Kenya Red Cross, AP’s Jason Straziuso, and TV stations K24, KBC, and NTV. The police and interior ministry are particularly useful.
ATTACKERS of Westgate shopping mall have been isolated and pinned down in a room by security forces in the ongoing operation.—
Kenya Police (@PoliceKE) September 21, 2013
The Westgate opened in 2007 in the Westlands neighborhood of Nariobi, where rich Kenyans and expatriates tend to live. It’s a conspicuous symbol of economic development in Kenya’s fast-growing economy, which is likely why al Shabaab has singled out the mall in statements since 2011. The gunmen in today’s attack were said to have told Muslims to leave the mall while shooting people they believed to be non-Muslims.
Kenyans are predominantly Christian. The Kenyan military, with cooperation from Somalia, has waged attacks against al-Shabaab militants in the last several years, prompting vows of revenge. Al Shabaab said last year that it was officially joining al Qaeda, though some members of the group objected and split off on their own.
Officials in Kenya haven’t yet accused al Shabaab of the attack. “It is a possibility that it is an attack by terrorists,” the interior ministry told Reuters.