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Large explosion rocks Kenya mall in hostage siege

Kenyan police say a "major" assault by security forces has begun to end the two-day hostage crisis at a Nairobi mall, in which 68 people have died.

Two women hug outside an upscale shopping mall, seen background left , in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept. 21 2013, after shooting erupted when armed men attempted to rob a store. Bursts of gunfire were heard from outside the mall Saturday, where cars were left abandoned. Witnesses say a half dozen grenades also went off along with lobbies of gunfire that started at midday. Police say they are engaging the attackers. (AP Photo/ Jason Straziuso)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - A large explosion rocked the Kenyan mall where Islamic extremists are holding hostages a day after attacking the center and killing 59 people.

Associated Press journalists at the Westgate mall said the explosion Sunday afternoon was by far the largest in the 30-hour siege. There was silence after the big blast.

An estimated 10 to 15 militant attackers are in the shopping mall holding an unknown number of captives. The Kenyan military has gone into the four-story mall and there have been sporadic gun battles. Some Kenyan military were seen carrying in at least two rocket propelled grenades. Earlier military helicopters hovered over the mall.

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Kenyan police say a "major" assault by security forces has begun to end the two-day hostage crisis at a Nairobi mall, in which 68 people have died.

Kenya's Disaster Operation Center said late Sunday that "this will end tonight. Our forces will prevail."

Word of the Kenyan assault comes shortly after a large blast echoed from the mall, around the start of the operation.

Before the assault two helicopters hovered over the mall, skimming the roof. Al-Shabab militants reacted angrily to the helicopters on Twitter and said the Kenyan military action was endangering hostages.

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The attack on the upscale Westgate Mall in Kenya's capital has killed dozens of people and wounded scores of others. The dead include Africans, Europeans, Asians and North Americans. Here are details about some of the victims.
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KENYA

President Uhuru Kenyatta's nephew and nephew's fiancee are among the dead.
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INDIA

Two Indians, 8-year-old Parmashu Jain and 40-year-old Sridhar Natarajan, were killed, and four others were wounded in the attack, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said.
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BRITAIN

At least three U.K. nationals were killed in the attack, according to the Foreign Office, which warned the number of such fatalities is "likely to rise as further information becomes available."
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FRANCE

Two French women were killed, President Francois Hollande said.
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SOUTH AFRICA

One South African citizen was killed, according to the country's International Relations Department.
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CANADA

Two Canadians, including a diplomat, died in the attack, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He paid tribute to the victims and noted the loss of diplomat Annemarie Desloges, who served in Canada's High Commission to Kenya as a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency.
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GHANA

Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor died after being injured in the attack, the West African country's presidential office said. In addition to his writings, Awoonor was a professor and served as an ambassador in Brazil, Cuba and at the U.N.
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THE NETHERLANDS

A 33-year-old Dutch woman died in the attack and seven other Dutch citizens who were in the mall escaped unharmed, Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said. The victim's identity wasn't immediately released.
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CHINA

A 38-year-old Chinese woman was killed; her son was injured and hospitalized in stable condition, the Chinese Embassy in Kenya said in a statement.
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U.S.

The wife of a foreign service national working for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed, and four American citizens were reported injured, U.S. officials said.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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