By HEATHER SAUL
At least 22 people have been killed by gunmen who opened fire in a suspected terror in Kenya’s capital.
Dozens more have been injured, Kenya’s Red Cross has reported. Police and security guards told AFP that there were seven confirmed hostages still trapped inside the shopping mall.
Kenyan soldiers have now moved into the building in an attempt to flush out gunman, Reuters have reported.
Witnesses from inside the mall said the gunmen wore black, covering their faces with masks, and appeared to be targeting non-Muslims.
Elijah Kamau, who was at the mall at the time of the midday attack, said that the gunmen made a declaration that non-Muslims would be targeted.
“The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted,” he said.
The Somali militant group al Shabaab had threatened to strike the Westgate mall, popular with the city’s expatriate community; but there was no immediate claim of responsibility from any group. Al Shabaab said it had no comment on the attack.
The gunmen used AK-47s and grenades in their attack in the capital, Nairobi, according to witnesses and local police. The Kenyan Red Cross said at last 15 people were killed, with more fatalities expected.
The shoot-out began in the Westgate centre, one of the most exclusive shopping malls in the Westlands district.
Police chief Benson Kibue said the building has been besieged by the attackers, and officers were on the ground engaging fire with them. Armed police are currently responding from behind vehicles outside the front of the building.
Manish Turohit, 18, said he saw gunmen with AK-47s and vests with hand grenades on them inside the mall before he escaped to hide in a parking garage for two hours.
“They just came in and threw a grenade. We were running and they opened fire. They were shouting and firing,” he said after being marched out of the mall in line with about 15 people who held their hands in the air.
People run from the Westgate Mall after armed men staged an attack
Officers arrived on foot an hour and a half after the attacks began.
Panicked shoppers have fled the building and cars have been left abandoned outside the mall, according to reports. Dozens were seen emerging covered in blood and were quickly treated by first responders.
The gunmen were reportedly attempting to rob shops within the mall before they began shooting.
An armed police searches through a shopping centre for gunmen
Rob Vandijk, who works at the Dutch embassy, told the Associated Presshe was eating at a restaurant inside the mall when attackers lobbed hand grenades inside the building.
He said gunfire then burst out and people screamed as they dropped to the ground.
Some of those who escaped the building have suggested the attack may have been a skewed attempted bank robbery.
British nationals have been advised to avoid the area, while the Foreign Office said it is “urgently looking into” the incident.