NAIROBI, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- At least one person is feared dead and more than 20 others injured when armed gangsters stormed a popular shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Saturday and held shoppers hostage.
However, the police have not verified the correct number of casualties after fierce gunbattle between the hooded gunmen and police.
Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said security officers have surrounded the Westgate Shopping Mall, which is mostly frequented by wealthy Kenyans and foreigners.
Kimaiyo has appealed for calm and urged residents to stay away from the area.
The shopping mall has been cordoned off by the police who have gained entry into the first floor of the popular mall.
"We urge the public to remain calm, stop any form of speculation, especially online and let us resolve this quickly," Kimaiyo said as roads leading to Westgate and its environs have been closed.
The gunmen who entered the mall at around 10:30 a.m. have not said anything conclusive about their demands, according to sources of the Nakumatta Supermarket, which owns the mall.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Interior Mutea Iringo confirmed that the hooded men are indeed armed criminals, but have not establish their identities. Iringo said the government has dispatched air surveillance.
"Gunshots still can be heard from inside the mall. The police have taken charge of the ground floor. The public should stay away from Westgate and its environs and we ask the media to refrain from any unnecessary comments," Kimaiyo said.
An unknown number of people including shoppers and staffers are still holed up inside the building as ambulances are taking people away.
Senior government officials are at the scene to lead rescue operations.