Itongadol.- Israeli forces on Sunday have joined Kenyan efforts to end a deadly siege by Somali terrorists at a Nairobi shopping mall, according to an unconfirmed report by AFP. "The Israelis have just entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured," a Kenyan security source told AFP on condition he not be named.
An Israeli security source said Israeli advisors are helping Kenya with the "negotiating strategy" to end the siege, according to Reuters. In Israel, foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson refused to confirm or deny that its forces were involved.
"We don\’t make a habit of commenting on security cooperation of any kind that there may or may not be," he told AFP.
The attack on the partly Israeli-owned upmarket mall has left at least 59 dead and around 200 wounded, Kenyan officials said.
The intervention came 26 hours after gunmen walked into the complex, tossing grenades and spraying gunfire at shoppers and staff.
Somalia\’s Al Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack.
At least ten terrorists are reported to still be in the mall, armed with Kalashnikovs and hand grenades. They announced Saturday that they would not negotiate with the government of Kenya. Security forces continue to surround the mall, and it appears that local forces were able to surround the terrorists in a closed area of the exclusive shopping center.
The attackers, apparently operating from Somalia under the auspices of the terrorist organization al-Shabab, entered the capital-city mall Saturday afternoon and ordered all Muslims out. Others were shot.
Saturday\’s attack on the Westgate shopping center by the al Shabaab group, which opposes Kenya\’s participation in a peacekeeping mission in neighboring Somalia, killed at least 59 people and wounded 200 others. An unknown number of people were still being held hostage.
Three Israelis were safely rescued, including Yariv Kedar, a representative of the Amiran company, who has been in Kenya for the past seven years. He said yesterday, "We started to hear the cries and screams of frightened people. Terrorists fired bursts in all directions. At that same second, I hid all the documents that could identify me as an Israeli – my passport and work documents, so that God forbid they did not kidnap me and so that the fact that I am Israeli would not hurt me. My work friend did the same as me. and we stayed under the tables until the lcoal security forces reached us."
Israel\’s deputy ambassador to Kenya Yaki Lopez, who over the weekend was acting as ambassador, estimated that the attack was not directed against Israelis. "The first instinct is to think that way, but I think it is not necessarily the answer. It does not seem to me at this point, by instinct and through what we are getting, that they sought Israeli targets. According to him, the Israeli population in Kenya regularly spends time at the mall, and even after the event has maintained relative calm. "The Israelis are all relaxed, to my understanding. I do not see any degree of panic."