NAIROBI/ABUJA: Two Indians were among 68 people killed by heavily armed Somali Islamist militants who stormed a packed mall in Nairobi and engaged in fierce fighting with Kenyan soldiers backed by Israeli special forces trying to rescue about 30 hostages and end the bloody siege that entered a second day today.
Four Indians, including two women and a girl, were among nearly 200 people injured in the brazen attack on the part Israeli-owned Westgate centre launched by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group yesterday.
There were conflicting reports about the number of militants inside the four-storey mall, with Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenkua saying there were 10 to 15 heavily armed men while some witnesses said they had seen only four men in black, their heads covered in scarves.
Kenyan government and Western diplomatic sources said the militants were holding about 30 hostages. Helicopters were seen circling overhead and there was a strong military presence in and around the mall.
Israeli Special Forces were today at the scene and working with their Kenyan counterparts in the hostage crisis, Kenyan government sources were quoted as saying by CNN.
As the gunfire continued, troops evacuated over 1,000 people from the centre after the masked militants launched the deadliest assault since al-Qaeda bombed the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing over 200 people.
“We still have hostages in the mall, and this makes the operation delicate. We have 59 people who have been killed so far,” Interior Minister Lenku said earlier.
Nearly 200 people were wounded in the attack and Lenku said 175 people had been taken to hospital.
Two Indians, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed and four other community members injured in the attack, an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.
The dead Indians were identified as 40-year-old Sridhar Natarajan, employee of a pharmaceutical firm, and Paramshu Jain, son of a manager of the local Bank of Baroda branch.
The injured Indians are Natarajan’s wife Manjula Sridhar, Paramshu Jain’s mother Mukta Jain, 12-year-old Poorvi Jain and Natarajan Ramachandran, an employee of Flamingo Duty Free.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today condemned the attack in a letter to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and said the incident is “a stark reminder that the persisting menace of terrorism remains a formidable challenge that calls for a concerted and sustained response from the global community”. -PTI