|Soldiers patrol near the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 21, 2013. The death toll in an attack by gunmen on Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Saturday rose to 39, according to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta. (Xinhua/Zhang Chen)
NAIROBI, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- A bloody attack by gunmen on a upscale mall in the Kenyan capital on Saturday killed at least 39 people, making it the deadliest terror attack in the east African country since the U.S. embassy bombings in 1998, according to the Kenyan government.
"They have killed at least 39 innocent people and injured more than 150 others. With the entire nation, I stand with the families of those who have lost their lives and extend every Kenyan's deepest condolences," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised speech.
Witnesses said gunshots were still heard at the mall and another group of Kenyan soldiers rushed into it as of 2: 37 a.m. local time on Sunday (2337 GMT Saturday), some 16 hours after the gunmen launched the attack.
Kenyan police said they were holding a suspect in connection to the attack. Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said the suspect, believed to have been involved in the attack, was escorted to hospital by police in an operation carried out by a contingent of police officers who had surrounded the mall. The male suspect sustained bullet wounds.
"We have detained the Westgate mall attack suspect in hospital," Kimaiyo told a news conference.
A group of gunmen launched the attack on the luxurious Westgate mall at around 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) Saturday, when a number of foreign visitors and local people were entering the mall for shopping.
The mall consists of five floors and more than 80 shops as well as a Nakumatt supermarket, according to police.
Some witnesses said they first thought it was a robbery after they heard explosions and gunshots.
A witness who did not give his name told Xinhua that he heard explosions and saw masked gunmen before he hid in a men's room. He said the gunmen were speaking the language that he did not understand.
Another anonymous witness said the gunmen shot dead the security guards and then opened fire shop by shop.
"Some of the workers and shoppers who attempted to escape were shot and died instantly," said David Muthee, who escaped from the mall.
Some of the injured attempted to jump from the second floor to the first floor and then tried to run to the exit area, but they could not make it, he added.
Workers at the shopping mall said the hooded gunmen, numbering around 10, attacked the building from the second floor, where there was a media event. Some gunmen were armed with sophisticated weapons and shot indiscriminately while ordering people to lie on the ground.
The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) Secretary General Abbas Gullet told Xinhua earlier that rescue operation was still underway, expressing fears that there would be more casualties as some of the shoppers were still holed up in the mall.
However, Kenya's interior ministry was not sure whether there were hostages inside the mall.
Somalia's militant group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in its twitter account "HSM Press Office" that "The Mujahideen entered Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the Kenyan Kuffar inside their own turf."