3 days of mourning for Kenya

It remains unclear how many hostages died in a terror attack at a Nairobi mall.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves a hotel in London on 7 May 2013. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Official flags will be flying at half mast throughout Kenya this morning as the country begins three days of mourning for the lives lost during the Westgate Shopping Mall siege in Nairobi.

Declaring final victory over the al-Shabaab gunmen who stormed the mall on Saturday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that three floors in a part of the mall had collapsed near the end of the operation, leaving an unknown number of bodies under steel and concrete.

It's unclear what caused the structure to come down.

In a televised address on Tuesday ,Kenyatta said 61 civilians have so far been confirmed dead and six security personnel died in the four days of fighting.

He said five terrorists were also shot dead.

Several foreigners have already been named among the dead as the mall was a favourite with expatriates.

It is unclear how many foreigners may still be missing.

Some of the 63 people reported to the Red Cross as still missing may simply not have been at the mall, or may have later made it home without authorities being made aware.

The President said 11 people suspected of involvement in the well-planned and executed assault are in custody.

But he did not say how many gunmen were arrested and if others who were involved, were arrested elsewhere.

"Intelligence reports had suggested a British woman and two or three Americans may have been involved in the attack so we can't confirm those details at the moment. Forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists."

Kenyatta praised Kenyans for rising up as one nation and supporting fellow countrymen.

"You've raised more than 60 million shillings to help the affected. You've also donated food not only to the afflicted, but also to keep the volunteers going. The response to appeals to blood donations has been overwhelming and there's no limit to your patriotic sacrifice."

Others who have been affected will receive trauma counselling.

FOREIGN FIGHTERS

The government denied speculation that women were among the guerrillas, but said some had been dressed as women which may have been a ploy to smuggle more weapons past mall guards.

It is unusual, if not unknown, for militants to use female fighters.

"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 Twitter.

Al-Shabaab also dismissed comments by a Kenyan minister that two or three of the militants were young Somali or Arab Americans.

A British security source has also said it was possible that Samantha Lewthwaite, widow of Germaine Lindsay one of the London suicide bombers of July 2005, was involved in the Nairobi siege in some way.

"It is a possibility. But nothing definitive or conclusive yet."

Lewthwaite is wanted in connection with an alleged plot to attack hotels and restaurants in Kenya.

Making no mention of gunmen still in the mall, al-Shabaab also drew a link to the most recent 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 are on 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!" read another al-Shabaab Twitter post.