Kenya’s foreign minister said Monday that the Al-Qaeda terror group is responsible for the attack in a mall in Nairobi that has killed at least 62 people.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said that Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, was not acting alone and that it was part of an international terrorism campaign.
Mohamed said that about 20 terrorists, both male and female, were behind the attack, and that both the victims and perpetrators came from a variety of nationalities.
Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda announced their alliance in February 2012, and Abu Omar, a Somali-based Al-Shabaab commander, confirmed in an interview with Al Jazeera that his group is taking orders from Al-Qaeda.
"Al-Qaeda are our leaders, they are our mentors, they are our leaders …and we are all engaged in a single conflict against an international Christian crusade and so we are partners in this," he was quoted as having said.
On Monday night, Kenya’s interior ministry tweeted that Kenyan troops were "in control" of Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall.
"We're in control of Westgate," the ministry said, some 60 hours after Islamist terrorists stormed the complex.
"Our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind. We believe all hostages have been released," the ministry added.
A government spokesperson told Al Jazeera that all of the hostages had been evacuated from the shopping mall.
At least three Al-Shabaab terrorists have been killed and ten soldiers wounded in the military operation to end the standoff, he said.
"Our special forces are inside the building checking the rooms. Obviously it's a very, very big building," said government spokesman Manoah Esipisu.
"We think that everyone, the hostages, have been evacuated, but we don't want to take any chances," he said. "The special forces are doing their job and yes, I think we are near the end."
"The special forces call this sanitizing. It's a very complex and very delicate operation," he said, but said no resistance was being encountered.
Al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the terror attack several hours after it began, said it was in retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.
“The Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar (infidels) inside their own turf,” Al-Shabaab said on Twitter.
“What Kenyans are witnessing at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military,” the group said.
Al-Shabaab has also claimed that there were American terrorists among those who attacked the mall.
The group tweeted a series of names on its latest Twitter account before it was suspended by the social networking site.