* Kenyan president says operation over, militants "defeated"
* Says 5 militants dead, 11 held, 67 other people dead
* Bodies still under rubble of collapsed floors
* Unclear if British woman, Americans among militants
* Al Shabaab deny women involved, no mention of surviving
By Richard Lough and Edmund Blair
NAIROBI, Sept 24 Kenya's president said his
forces had "defeated" Islamists from Somalia's al Shabaab on
Tuesday, shooting dead five and capturing 11 others suspected of
killing 67 people during a four-day siege at a shopping mall.
"The operation is now over," Uhuru Kenyatta told Kenyans in
a televised address, adding that more bodies, seemingly both
gunmen and hostages, remained under rubble after three floors in
part of the Westgate centre collapsed late in the mission.
"We have ashamed and defeated our attackers," he said.
Police said those who stormed into restaurants and shops at
a busy lunchtime on Saturday, spraying bullets and grenades,
were now either dead or in custody: "Now it is for the forensic
and criminal experts," said a police spokesman, Masoud Mwinyi.
The Red Cross said earlier on Tuesday that 63 people were
unaccounted for. About 60 civilians were already confirmed dead
in the first days of violence. Kenyan officials declined to say
late on Tuesday how many more may have died later, with gunmen
who had vowed to kill hostages and go down fighting if attacked.
It also remained unclear who the attackers were, beyond
their loyalty to al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which had demanded
Kenya pull troops out of Somalia. The president said he could
not confirm they included two or three Americans or a British
woman who might be the widow of a London suicide bomber.
However, al Shabaab themselves, on Twitter, denied that any
women took part. After days of trumpeting defiance on behalf of
those holding out in the mall, however, the group's silence on
their fate late on Tuesday suggested their mission had ended.
"There are several bodies trapped in the rubble, including
the terrorists," Kenyatta said. He put the confirmed death toll
so far at 61 civilians and six security personnel, as well as
five of the militants. The official toll previously stood at 62.
Officials said the gunmen had set a major fire on Monday in
a supermarket. On Tuesday, a thin trail of smoke drifted into a
soggy sky as darkness fell, the result, rescue volunteers said,
of soldiers detonating locked doors in a search for militants.
Police were letting some people retrieve cars left behind
when shoppers fled in panic as gunmen, whom officials had said
numbered about a dozen or more, burst upon them. But journalists
and others were still kept well away behind a security cordon.
The president said he could not confirm intelligence reports
of British and American militants, adding that forensic tests
were being carried out to establish their nationalities. On
Monday, the government denied speculation of women being among
the guerrillas, but said some had been dressed as women. That
may have been a ploy to smuggle more weapons past mall guards.
It would be unusual for Islamist militants to put women on
the frontline and al Shabaab categorically denied it. British
media have speculated about the involvement of the "White
Widow", the fugitive British wife of one of the four men who
blew themselves up in the 7/7 bombings in London in July 2005.
"We have an adequate number of young men who are fully
committed & we do not employ our sisters in such military
operations #Westgate," al Shabaab said on its Twitter feed.
Making no mention of gunmen still in the mall, it also drew
a link to the most recent Islamist attack in London, when a
soldier was stabbed to death on a busy street in May in the
suburb of Woolwich. Michael Adebolajo and a fellow British
Muslim convert of Nigerian descent face trial for murder.
"It's an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth...' Remember
Mujahid Adebolajo? This is what he meant. His was #Woolwich,
#Westgate ours!" another al Shabaab Twitter post read.
Kenyatta said: "These cowards will meet justice as will
their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are."
He thanked other leaders, including U.S. President Barack
Obama, for support and used his address to both praise the
response of the Kenyan people and call for national unity, six
months after his election was marked by ethnic tensions.
"Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed," he said.
Kenyatta's focus on Kenya's troubles, and of his role in a
global campaign against terrorism, was a reminder that he faces
trial at The Hague in a few weeks time for crimes against
humanity over violence that followed a previous election, in
2007. The International Criminal Court adjourned the trial of
his vice president this week because of the Westgate crisis.
The president and his government have urged the ICC to drop
the case and warm words for the Kenyan leadership from Western
allies during the siege may have encouraged their hopes that the
court might be pressed to shelve proceedings in the interests of
shoring up an important partner in the fight against al Qaeda.
The attack has come at a time when several violent Islamist
groups from Mali to Algeria, Nigeria to Kenya - tapping into
local grievances but all espousing an anti-Western,
anti-Christian creed - are striking at state authority and
Kenyatta had rejected demands that he pull Kenyan troops out
of its northern neighbour. As part of an African peacekeeping
force in Somalia, those soldiers have pushed al Shabaab on to
the defensive over the past two years.
Its attack on an Israeli-built complex that symbolised the
rise of an affluent class of Africans alongside expatriate
Westerns may now help the movement to a position of prominence
in the widening constellation of international jihadists.
Images from closed-circuit television inside the mall during
the attack showed two militants, casually dressed and wearing
ammunition belts. One held an assault rifle. Al Shabaab
confirmed he pair were part of the group that attacked Westgate.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said earlier that "two
or three Americans" and a British woman were among the
militants. She said the Americans were "young men, about between
maybe 18 and 19" years old. She said they were of Somali or Arab
origin and had lived in "in Minnesota and one other place".
Al Shabaab, which said it had been in communication with its
members in the mall, dismissed the minister's comments.
A British security source said it was possible that Samantha
Lewthwaite, widow of 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, was involved
in the Nairobi siege in some way. "It is a possibility. But
nothing definitive or conclusive yet," the source said.
Lewthwaite is thought to have left Britain several years ago
and is wanted in connection with an alleged plot to attack
expensive hotels and restaurants in Kenya.
President Obama, whose father was Kenyan, said he believed
the country - scene of one of al Qaeda's first big attacks, in
1998 - would continue to be a regional pillar of stability.
Somalia's prime minister appealed in Geneva on Tuesday for
international support to combat al Shabaab but said a military
solution to their insurgency alone was not enough.
Abdi Farah Shirdon said: "We still have a difficult journey
ahead of us. A military solution alone is not enough, promotion
of rule of law, greater regional cooperation and economic
stability and provision of public services are all key factors."
British Defence 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.