An armed gang, believed to be Somali militants, has stormed the packed upmarket Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 30 people and injuring a further 50, according to reports.
The shopping mall was heaving this Saturday morning with affluent shoppers and is often frequented by tourists and expatriates.
Reports from the Daily Mail have been released, suggesting that the terrorist attack was targeted at non-Muslims. One eyewitness has claimed that they had heard the gunmen shouting out that all Muslims must stand up and leave immediately because they only wanted to kill non-Muslims, fuelling speculation of a terrorism attack. Everything seems to point toward the Somali militant Shabaab group, who have been blamed for many shootings and bombings on churches and security forces.
The four-storey mall has been seen for a long time to be a potential terrorist target. The attack appeared to be well organized and carried out.
BBC News reports have been streaming in from several eyewitnesses, one from a man saying that he was sitting on a balcony with his friend having lunch, when a jeep pulled up and parked outside the entrance of the shopping center. Several gunmen dressed in black masks got out, armed with automatic weapons and ammunition. The man, realizing that something horrific was about to happen, shouted to everyone to get out of the café. When surrounding customers heard him and saw the gunmen, they panicked and fled.
Another eyewitness has claimed that he could hear the screeching of car brakes, followed quickly after by the sound of an explosion. After that all that could be heard was a series of gunshots and peopled screaming.
Many of the injured are said to be children and people have been seen escaping the building, panicked, shocked and covered in blood. Injured shoppers were wheeled out of the complex on stretchers and trolleys. Many others were still trapped inside the complex. A Kenyan Red Cross official, Abbas Guled said that he had counted 25 people dead, although reports have been conflicting from different sources. Another former British soldier said that he had touched the eyes of four of the people and that one of them was a child.
Terrified people had split up in all directions, fleeing into shops, rest rooms and the cinema complex. Some hid in restaurants and storage spaces.
The Kenyan armed forces and police have surrounded the shopping mall, with Special Forces being brought in, in to attempt to flush out the gunmen.
Screaming and gunfire could be heard moving toward the entrance of the mall, while reports were also coming in that many have been taken hostage. The hostages were told to get down on the floor and not to leave the complex, or they would be shot.
The many who did escape had used their survival instincts and dropped to the floor, before crawling out of the building. Once they managed to get out, international news cameras showed footage of people running in all directions.
While there is still speculation as to how many gunmen are involved in the shoot out, the interior minister, Joseph ole Lenku now says that things are under control and people have been evacuated, while urging the public not to speculate about the attack as it was sending the wrong messages.
In the last hour, the foreign office had also told the media to move further back from the scene and stop broadcasting, as it is believed that by reporting what they see, they are unwittingly giving away information to the attackers.
Further reports were coming in that people who were trapped in hiding places had been corresponding with others outside via social media.
Security guards have managed to get inside the building, but there is yet no clear information on their progress. Military pulled up with artillery, signifying that there could be another mass shoot out.
Reports from AFP are now coming out to state that the remaining gunmen have now been isolated and pinned down in one area on one of the floors, but it has not been verified as to whether the hostages are out yet.
BBC Kenya correspondent, Anne Soy has just reported that one gunmen has now been shot dead, while another changed his clothing to look like a civilian and escaped with the other shoppers.
More reports are emerging as the story continues to unfold.
*Viewers might find some of the pictures below distressing.*
Written by: Brucella Newman