WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday to offer condolences over what the White House called a “terrorist attack” by the al Shabaab group at a Nairobi shopping mall that has killed almost 70 people.
Islamist militants still held hostages on Sunday at the shopping mall, where brief volleys of gunfire interrupted hours of stalemate.
“President Obama called President Kenyatta of Kenya this morning to express condolences to the government and people of Kenya for the terrorist attack carried out by al-Shabaab yesterday on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi,” the White House said in a statement. “President Obama reiterated U.S. support for Kenya’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.”
Five American citizens were among those injured in the shootings at the mall, said State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.
There were no reports of any Americans among the dead, said Harf.
Republican Representative Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the attack showed the growing influence of al Qaeda linked groups in Africa.
“This shows the really growing influence of al Qaeda in Africa. You have al Shabaab now in Somalia going off into Kenya, carrying out an attack outside its own country,” King said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The attack showed that “al Qaeda and its affiliates are still extremely powerful and still able to really strike terror into the hearts of people, attacking a shopping mall, it has no military significance at all,” King said.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Thomas Ferraro, Lesley Wroughton, Diane Bartz and Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Sandra Maler