Gunmen hold hostages in third day of Nairobi mall siege

September 23, 2013

Kenyan officials claim progress in al Shabaab siege, Merkel wins big in weekend elections, and crises take center stage at this week’s U.N. General Assembly. Today is Monday, September 23, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Kenyan police officers take position during the ongoing military operation at the Westgate Shopping Center in the capital Nairobi, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Nairobi nightmare continues. Some hostages remain trapped in a Nairobi mall on Monday, after al Shabaab operatives took hold of the shopping center on Saturday in a violent siege that has left nearly 70 dead so far. The Somalia-based militant group demanded Kenya withdraw troops from Somalia, where it has worked to push out al Shabaab as part of an African Union-backed peacekeeping mission, but Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Sunday he won’t end the mission:

It remained unclear how many gunmen and hostages were still cornered in the Westgate shopping center, two hours after a series of loud explosions and gunfire were followed by a plume of black smoke, that grew in volume from one part of the complex. Kenya’s interior minister told a news conference that the militants – all men, though some wore women’s clothing during the assault – had set a fire with mattresses in a supermarket on the mall’s lower floors. Two “terrorists” had been killed on Monday, he added. Another assailant had died on Saturday.

Officials said the attackers come from various nations. One woman described her escape from the mall, explaining that she fled to safety through a staff exit. While Kenyan officials say they are “closing in” on the attackers, citizens expressed frustration that the situation has not yet been resolved. Judges at the International Criminal Court on Monday adjourned Deputy President William Ruto’s crimes against humanity trial for one week so that he could deal with the crisis.

German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel smiles as she receives flowers after first exit polls in the German general election (Bundestagswahl) at party headquarters in Berlin, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Merkel madness. German Chancellor Angela Merkel nabbed an easy victory in Sunday’s elections, winning 42 percent of the vote for her conservative party – the strongest show of support for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in decades. Still, Merkel will have to find a way to compromise with the losing parties on how to lead the country:

Despite leading her conservatives to their best result since 1990, with 41.5 percent of votes putting them five seats short of the first absolute majority in parliament in over half a century, 59-year-old Merkel had little time to celebrate. “We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with the SPD (Social Democratic Party) chairman, who said the SPD must first hold a meeting of its leaders on Friday,” Merkel told a news conference, adding that she did not rule out talks with other potential coalition partners.

Though German voters would welcome coalition rule, the partnership would not be easy and may force Merkel to reconsider austerity measures that have kept Germany strong during the euro zone crisis.

A U.N. worker rests after checking the temporary General Assembly Hall at the U.N. headquarters ahead to the start of the U.N. general assembly in New York, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Syria summit. The crisis in Syria will dominate the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly, where global leaders, including wanted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and recently-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, will meet in New York for the annual conference which begins tomorrow:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the top agenda item will be Syria’s 2-1/2-year civil war, which the United Nations says has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions… No one expects a breakthrough in the crisis this week, though there may be approval of a U.N. resolution backing a U.S.-Russian plan to … remove Syria’s chemical weapons by June 2014 to avoid U.S. air strikes. That plan was agreed to as U.N. inspectors confirmed sarin nerve gas was used in an August 21 attack near Damascus that killed over 1,400 people, many of them children, according to U.S. estimates.

Onlookers also are on the lookout for a possible impromptu meeting – or even just a handshake – between President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart. Iran’s foreign minister said his country will join six-power talks on its nuclear program later this week, and Iranian media reported Iran pardoned 80 prisoners ahead of Rouhani’s visit. The most controversial attendee is Sudan’s Bashir, wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

Nota Bene: Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai appealed the life sentence he was handed for corruption over the weekend.


Snake on a plane – Qantas grounds a flight in Sydney after finding a Mandarin rat snake on board. (BBC)

Reef barrier – A massive port project could damage Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. (Time)

Entrepreneur spring – Despite unrest, Egypt’s startup culture grows. (The Atlantic)

Movie Metropolis – A Chinese businessman wants to build the world’s most expensive film studio. (The Guardian)

Mubarak on Mubarak – A secret recording reveals Mubarak’s stance on the U.S., Jews and himself. (New York Times)

From the File:

  • Putin warns Syria violence could hit ex-Soviet bloc
  • Tunisia’s Islamists resist proposal to step down.
  • Angry Bangladesh garment workers protest over pay.
  • Egypt court bans all Muslim Brotherhood activities.
  • Costa Concordia captain wants to search wreck for evidence.
No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see