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Nairobi - At least six South Africans were among the many shoppers trapped for several hours when gunmen stormed Nairobi’s upmarket Westgate mall at noon on Saturday.
By Saturday evening about 39 people had been killed and about 150 injured by gunfire and grenade attacks in the mall in Nairobi’s posh Westland suburb, according to Kenyan authorities. As night fell the gunmen were still holed up in the mall.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Kenya Super Moloi said two South African couples resident in Nairobi,one with two young children, had been trapped in the mall for about six hours.
They had eventually been rescued at about 6.30pm local time.
Moloi said one of the couples had called the High Commission early in the drama to say they were trapped in the mall.
He said the couple were hiding from the gunmen in a fire escape passage with several other people.
They were not being held hostage. “We advised them to stay put and wait for the security forces to move in,” he said. Moloi said his staff had communicated with the couple by SMS because the gunmen had earlier shot at people making calls.
Moloi later said he had discovered a second South African couple with two young children had also been trapped in the mall.
All six had been rescued safely.
He said the High Commission staff were all safe and he had not heard of any other South Africans who were either trapped, wounded or killed in the attack.
He had dispatched staff to Nairobi’s main hospital, the Aga Khan, to investigate. Those injured in the attack were being taken there for treatment he said.
Earlier Moloi had said it was not yet clear who the gunmen were and whether they were politically motivated.
A well-organised “terror gang” is believed to be behind the attack, senior police sources told the AFP, adding they had also detained one wounded suspect.
“This cannot be a normal robbery because all the survivors are saying how the group confronted them and opened fire,” a senior police official said on condition that he remained anonymous.
“We have reports there were up to 10 or so attackers and they appeared to be wearing a similar outfit, and others covered their faces,” another police official said.
“The pattern of the attack and the way they were speaking to their targets clearly point to a well-planned attack by a terror gang,” he said.
However, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said it was still too early to say who was responsible for the attack.
“Investigations have begun to find out the perpetrators of this crime,” he said in a statement.