Kenyan forces had for two days said they were in the “final phase” of the operation, only to be battled back by the militants inside the building.
Explosions rang from the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi throughout yesterday, and the chatter of gunfire from inside the building could also be heard. Fresh smoke rose from the building in the afternoon.
The Kenyan Red Cross had previously said 62 people had been killed, and it seemed certain that the number of confirmed deaths would rise as security forces search the building.
Kenyan Red Cross spokesman Abbas Gullet said it was still not known how many more may be dead inside the building.
A government official told The Associated Press that the morgue was preparing for up to an additional 60 bodies, though the official didn’t know an exact count. The government official insisted on anonymity so he would not face retribution from government officials.
Earlier yesterday the al-Qaida-linked attackers used social media to give accounts of the fighting inside the mall that conflicted with the government reports.
“There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the mujahideen are still holding their ground,” the Somali rebel group al-Shabab said in one Twitter message considered to be genuine.
It added it still held hostages, who were “still alive looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive.”
Kenyatta did not mention the fate of the hostages — if it was indeed true that there were still some being held — in his address.
Al-Shabab, whose name means “The Youth” in Arabic, said the mall attack was in retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into neighboring Somalia. African Union forces pushed the al-Qaida-affiliated group out of Somalia’s capital in 2011.
“You could have avoided all this and lived your lives with relative safety,” the group Tweeted Tuesday. “Remove your forces from our country and peace will come.”