NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s president proclaimed victory yesterday over the terrorists who stormed a Nairobi mall, saying security forces had “ashamed and defeated our attackers” following a bloody four-day siege in which dozens of civilians were killed.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the dead included 61 civilians whose bodies have been recovered so far and six security forces, while some 175 were injured, including 62 who remain hospitalized.
Three floors of the mall collapsed and several bodies were trapped in the rubble, said Kenyatta. His office later said a terrorist’s body was among those in the debris.
Five other extremists were killed by gunfire and another 11 other suspects had been arrested, he said; authorities had previously announced the arrest of seven at the airport and three elsewhere.
“These cowards will meet justice as well their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are,” Kenyatta said, in a televised address to the nation.
Kenyatta, 51, has visited wounded survivors in hospital and made other emotion-filled speeches about the terrorist attack, which has been the harshest test of his leadership since he became president in April.
“Fellow Kenyans, we have been badly hurt and feel great pain and loss. But we have been brave, united and strong,” said Kenyatta, the son of the country’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta. “Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed.”
Kenyatta’s statesman-like demeanor over the terror crisis is at odds with the charges he faces at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in which he is alleged to have incited violence following Kenya’s 2007 elections.
Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning starting Wednesday.
At the Westgate mall, there were no immediate signs of the Kenyan Security forces closing their operation.
Two Kenyan soldiers who had recently been inside the mall told The Associated Press shortly before the president spoke that the operation was effectively finished, but they said security forces were still combing the facility and had not definitively cleared all the rooms inside. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were under orders not to speak to the media.