Nairobi, Kenya — A shopping mall was attacked on Saturday by several gunmen, who killed at least 39 people and wounded at least 150 more.
The mall, Westgate Shopping Center, is a popular destination for both Kenyans and international visitors. Al Shabaab, a Somali Islamist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Reuters reports that people including close relatives of Kenya’s president, children, and international citizens were killed.
Shooting continued in the Nairobi mall for hours after the initial attack as troops surrounded the building. Police and soldiers swept the mall, going shop by shop to search for survivors, bodies, and the gunmen.
The attack was likely designed to achieve the most amount of international damage, and it appeared to be successful. France reported two of its citizens were killed and Canada reported the same, including one of its diplomats.
The United States State Department also reported that American citizens were injured, while Britain acknowledged its citizens were likely also affected.
CNN notes that al Shabaab vowed on its Twitter account that it would not negotiate with Kenyan authorities to stop the mall attack. The group added on its Twitter account, “The Mujahideen are still strong inside #Westgate Mall and still holding their ground. All praise is due Allah!”
Police also tweeted that the gunmen were isolated to one room by security forces, indicating that the worst of the attack could be over.
Al Shabaab has links to al Qaeda and is currently battling Kenyan and other African peacekeepers in Somalia. Before the Kenya mall attack, the group threatened several times to launch an attack on Kenyan soil if the country’s troops remained in the Horn of Africa.
The group added in another tweet on Saturday, “For long we have waged was against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land.”
Witnesses claimed to see at least five gunmen in the initial attack on Westgate Mall. Some reported that at least one attacker was female. While the initial attack is over, there was no word on how long the attackers could stay holed up inside the mall.