Non-Muslims possible targets of Nairobi attack

At least 25 people including children have been killed in today's attack on an upmarket Nairobi mall.

A Kenyan woman is helped to safety after masked gunmen stormed an upmarket mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff in Nairobi on 21 September 2013. Picture: AFP

NAIROBI - Eyewitness News has learnt that non-Muslims may have been the target of today's gun attack at Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall.

Kenyan authorities haven't yet been able to establish who is responsible for the attack but the government has said it could be a terrorist attack. Some reports have indicated that the gunmen are Somalian.

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.

There are also reports that dozens are still trapped inside the mall.

Eyewitness News spoke to the _Economist _magazine's Daniel Howden who is in Nairobi.

He said after the initial burst of firing was over, several witnesses said the attackers were calling on Muslims who were inside the mall to identify themselves so they could be allowed to leave.

"In one instance, it was described to me that an Indian man pretended he was a Muslim and was asked to provide the name of the mother of the profit. When he couldn't provide it, he was shot dead in front of everyone."

Howden said at around midday, shots were heard and what appears to be between 10 and 15 attackers entered from at least two different parts of the mall and began to shoot indiscriminately.

"Multiple witnesses have confirmed they were using grenades. They appeared to have been throwing grenades into different shops and areas and going in and firing afterwards."

He said Westgate, which is probably the most upscale shopping centre in the Kenyan capital, would've had a large proportion of expats, tourists and local businesspeople inside at the time the attack occurred.

Howden said while it's difficult to say who is responsible for the attack until someone is arrested or detained, it has all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.

"I don't think we can say with confidence these were Somalis. Certainly there's very little about this attack that would suggest there was a robbery. People were shot dead on the street outside by the group of attackers before they even entered building and there have been no descriptions of anything being taken from the stores."

He said the battle between the attackers and Kenyan security forces is still going on.

"It was packed. There were hundreds inside the mall and dozens are still trapped inside. We have confirmation that the siege is ongoing."

Howden said the police have gone in and are trying to rescue people store by store but added it's going to take a long time for the entire building to be swept.

He said there were reports that one of the biggest stores, a supermarket, was attacked with a grenade while being cleared by police.

Howden added that many of the casualties may have come from a car park on top of the shopping mall where a children's cooking show was being filmed.

"I've had descriptions of bodies scattered around the floor."

He said he thinks there's going to be a flow of "fairly awful news" coming out of Nairobi for the rest of the night.