Kenyan soldiers hold their rifles near Westgate .
(photo credit: Reuters)
Kenya said its security forces had taken control of the Nairobi shopping mall where Islamist fighters killed at least 62 people, and that police were doing a final sweep of shops early Tuesday after the last of the hostages had been rescued.
There was an eerie silence outside the mall after a day in which gunfire and explosions were heard in the Westgate mall. A trickle of survivors escaped the building throughout the day on Monday, but the fate of people listed as missing was unclear.
Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al Shabaab group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which began at lunchtime on Saturday. Kenyan officials say there were 10 to 15 attackers.
President Barack Obama offered US support, saying he believed Kenya - the scene of one of al-Qaida's first major attacks, in 1998, and a neighbor of chaotic Somalia - would continue to be a regional pillar of stability.
Kenyan security forces believed the end was in sight for the siege at the upmarket shopping mall in the capital, saying its forces were "in control" as the ordeal entered its fourth day.
A government official said there was no resistance from the attackers late on Monday night after a barrage of gunfire and blasts throughout the day, but that the security forces were cautious in case some attackers were hiding in the building.
"Our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind. We believe all hostages have been released," the Ministry of Interior said on Twitter.
The siege has followed a pattern of bursts of gunfire and activity followed by long lulls.
Patronized by well-to-do Kenyans and expatriates, Westgate mall epitomized the African consumer bonanza that is drawing foreign investment - from West and East - to one of the world's fastest growing regions.
Al-Qaida killed more than 200 people when it bombed the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998. When fighters from its Somali ideological counterpart stormed the mall on Saturday, they hit a high-profile symbol of Kenya's economic power.
Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, said the United States stood with Kenyans against "this terrible outrage".
"We will provide them with whatever law enforcement support that is necessary. And we are confident that Kenya will continue to be a pillar of stability in eastern Africa," he said in New York.
Kenya has sent troops to Somalia as part of an African Union force trying to stabilize the country, which was long without a functioning government, and push back al Shabaab.
It has also suffered internal instability. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost a nephew in the weekend bloodbath, faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in coordinating violence after disputed elections in 2007. He denies the charges.
Kenyatta has dismissed a demand that he pull Kenyan forces out of Somalia, saying he would not relent in a "war on terror".
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said he believed six Britons had died in the attack. Other known foreign victims are from China, Ghana, France, the Netherlands and Canada. Kenyan officials said the total death toll was at least 62.