Report: Israeli agents backing Kenyan troops in bid to end Nairobi mall siege
September 22, 2013 4:45pm
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Kenyan troops reportedly backed by Israeli agents launched an assault to end the siege by Somali militants at a Nairobi shopping mall.
A Kenyan security source confirmed that Israelis “are rescuing the hostages and the injured” at the upscale Westgate mall, the French news agency AFP reported. The Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to confirm or deny its agents were involved in the operation, which took place shortly after nightfall on Sunday.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had said he received “numerous offers of assistance from friendly countries” but that for now it remained a Kenyan operation.
Citing an unidentified Israel security source, Reuters had reported earlier Sunday that Israeli advisers were helping with negotiation strategy but were not involved in “any imminent storming operation.”
The death toll in the attack was at 68, with police warning that it could rise “much higher,” AFP reported. Some 200 people have been injured in the attack, which began Saturday.
Militants from al Shabab, a Somalia-based terror group linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The five-story shopping center features several Israeli-owned outlets, according to wire services. Among them is the ArtCaffe — the attack by eight gunmen took place near the coffee shop and bakery.
One Israeli was injured and three others escaped harm, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A ministry spokeswoman said Israelis had not been specifically targeted.
“This time, the story is not about Israel,” she told The New York Times.
The spokeswoman told the Times that the ArtCaffe, which is located on the ground floor, is popular with foreigners.
Four Americans were injured in the bombing, according to the U.S. State Department.