WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday called Saturday’s assault on a shopping mall in Kenya’s capital “an enormous offense against everybody’s sense of right and wrong.”
Kerry, who is in New York for meetings at the United Nations, described the attackers as “ruthless and completely reckless terrorists.”
He spoke Sunday with Somalia’s foreign minister and UN ambassador. The Somalia-based, al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack on the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
Kenya’s Red Cross upped the death toll in the attack to 68 Sunday night, as security officials said they were gearing up for a final push to free hostages after an over-24-hour standoff. Officials said at least 175 were injured in the attack.
The Kenya Defense Forces later said it had rescued “most” hostages and had taken control of most of the mall, though it did not provide details.
Many of the rescued hostages — mostly adults — were suffering from dehydration, Col. Cyrus Oguna, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press. He refused to say how many hostages were rescued or how many were still being held. He said some of the attackers had “most probably” been killed in the operation.
The assault came about 30 hours after 10 to 15 al-Shabab extremists stormed the mall Saturday from two sides, throwing grenades and firing on civilians.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said US law enforcement, military and civilian personnel in Nairobi are providing advice and assistance to the Kenyan authorities.
She said five Americans were among the scores of people injured in the attack by Islamic extremists. Ruhila Adatia-Sood, wife of Ketan Sood, a foreign service national working for the US Agency for International Development in Nairobi was killed, USAID said in a press statement.
Two Canadians, including a diplomat, died in the attack, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He paid tribute to the victims and noted the loss of diplomat Annemarie Desloges, who served in Canada’s High Commission to Kenya as a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency. Her spouse Robert Munk was wounded in the attack, but has since been released from the hospital, the Canadian Press reported.