Africa
3:52 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Kenyan President: Mall Attackers 'Defeated' After Four-Day Fight

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The bloody siege of an upscale mall in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, is over. Islamists had seized the shopping center on Saturday with guns blazing, killing shoppers indiscriminately. Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, made the announcement in a televised address to the nation this evening. He said Kenyan security forces had ashamed and defeated the militants.

PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA: These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons wherever they are.

SIEGEL: In the end, President Kenyatta said 61 civilians died along with six members of Kenya's security forces. Five terrorists were killed and 11 suspects captured.

For more, we turn to NPR's Jason Beaubien, who is in Nairobi. Jason, those are the numbers of dead at this point. How many people are still counted as missing?

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: We don't know how many people are still actually inside the building. President Kenyatta, however, did say that there are more bodies trapped inside the mall. He also said that three floors of the mall have collapsed. This is new information. We had heard earlier that one floor of the parking garage had collapsed, there was a huge fire going on inside there. But he laid out that three floors have collapsed. He said that there are bodies both of the terrorists and of potentially civilians still trapped inside the wreckage of this mall.

SIEGEL: I gather he acknowledged the intelligence reports that the terrorists included a British woman and as many as three Americans, that this was a multinational group. What did he say about that today?

BEAUBIEN: He did acknowledge that but he said that at this point in time they cannot confirm that a British woman and possibly as many as three Americans were involved in the attack. He said that they're going to investigate that. He pointed out that they've got 11 of the alleged terrorists captured. And he said that they're going to pursue this and really try to find out whether or not this was a very global terrorist attack that was on a much higher scale than just some Somalis who came over the border and carried it out.

If it did involve a British woman and some Americans, that would certainly elevate the planning and sort of the advanced logistics that had gone into planning this attack on this mall.

SIEGEL: This crew of assailants, they entered the mall guns blazing but also cell phones tweeting. They were describing what they were doing and claiming responsibility for this as it was under way. Did they continue tweeting right up to the end?

BEAUBIEN: They did. Throughout the day today, even as government officials here were saying that they've just about got this wrapped up, they were saying they were in control of the ball, the government officials were - we were getting tweets coming out from Al-Shabab members say, no, it's not true at all; we've still got hostages in there, our guys ready to fight, ready to fight to death. And that really sort of amplified their ability to keep this city on edge.

There were reports that possibly some of the assailants had escaped. I mean, a lot of people were coming out of that mall afterwards, so there was the potential that some of them were still running around in the city. And these tweets by Al-Shabab did have an effect on people, making them on edge, worried that, yes, there are people with guns to their heads inside their mall right as we're speaking.

So it was a very interesting use of social media to sort of amplify what they were trying to accomplish there in carrying out this terrorist attack.

SIEGEL: And you find the city, it feels unnerved to you after this whole experience?

BEAUBIEN: It certainly was. I mean, the schools, many schools were canceled. People were sort of lined up outside the security perimeter trying to get more information. People were very much unnerved by this and the fact that it was unresolved was adding to that. So the president coming out, saying definitively this is over, I think has had a - it's what people were waiting to hear.

So I think that that's going to have a positive effect. And certainly, just out here on the streets tonight, it feels a little bit more jolly now that this news is out there.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Jason Beaubien in Nairobi. Jason, thank you.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.