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Al-Shabaab claim responsibility for Nairobi attack

The group said Kenya received repeated warnings to pull its troops out of Somalia.

 Injured people receive assistance from bypassers after masked gunmen stormed an upmarket Nairobi mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff on September 21, 2013 in Nairobi. Picture: AFP

NAIROBI - Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for today's attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall.

The death toll continues to rise and at this stage, it appears at least 25 people including children have been killed and several others wounded.

Shooting continued hours after the initial assault as troops surrounded the Westgate mall and police and soldiers combed the building, hunting down the attackers shop by shop.

A police officer inside the building said the gunmen were barricaded inside the Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya's biggest chains.

The al Qaeda-linked Somali Islamist militant group said on Saturday that Kenya had received repeated warnings to pull its troops out of Somalia or face "severe consequences".

"The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia," the group said on its official Twitter handle.

The Somali militant group had threatened before to strike Westgate, a mall popular with the city's expatriate community.

Meanwhile, Kenyan security forces have arrested one of the gunmen responsible for the attack, the Kenyan Presidency said on Twitter.

In a separate tweet, the east African country's head of police, David Kimaiyo, said several other assailants had been pinned down after soldiers and police moved into the mall to hunt down the attackers.

The US State Department said it's received reports that American citizens were amongst those injured in the attack.

"We have reports of American citizens injured in the attack, and the US Embassy is actively reaching out to provide assistance," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

She declined to give details of the Americans injured citing privacy considerations.

The department condemned the shooting as a "senseless act of violence".

Some local television stations reported hostages had been taken, but there was no official confirmation.

CARNAGE

One eyewitness who identified himself as Taha said he heard the screech of brakes followed moments later by an explosion and then sustained gun fire from the ground floor.

Another survivor said he was shot by a man who looked Somali.

Some shoppers ran upstairs and escalators and hid around the mall's cinema complex. Police found another terrified group hiding in a toilet on the first floor.

Some wounded were wheeled out on stretchers and shopping trolleys. Many of the victims had multiple light wounds, apparently from flying debris. Others walked out, some with bloodied clothing wrapped around wounds. Dozens of wounded were ferried away by ambulance.

"I have counted 25 dead, and that is just from the mall alone," said Kenyan Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Guled.

The attack is the single biggest since al Qaeda's east Africa cell bombed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, in 1998 killing more than two hundred people.

In 2002, the same militant cell attacked an Israeli-owned hotel and tried to shoot down an Israeli jet in a coordinated attack.