Israeli "advisers" joined Kenyan troops yesterday in the battle to end a siege in an upmarket shopping mall and free hostages held by Somali militants in an attack that killed at least 59 people, including one Chinese woman.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard as Kenyan security officials said they were attempting to kill or capture the remaining attackers and end the 26-hour-long bloodbath at the Westgate Mall.
One Kenyan security source said the Israeli military was involved in the operation, while a private security official also said it was helping to comb the mall.
"The Israelis have just entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured," the Kenyan source said. Israel's Foreign Ministry refused to confirm or deny its forces were involved.
"There are Israeli advisers helping with the negotiating strategy, but no Israelis involved in any imminent storming operation," said a security source in Jerusalem, who declined to be identified. He said only a "handful" of Israelis, "purely in an advisory role", were on scene.
Somalia's al-Shabab rebels said the carnage at the partly Israeli-owned complex was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are battling the Islamists.
The Chinese embassy in Kenya has confirmed the death of a 38-year-old woman, Xinhua reported. It quoted her husband Wang Cuo, who works in Kenya, as saying his 13-year-old-son was in hospital with injuries.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said embassy staff is helping the wounded and his family.
Paris confirmed that two French citizens were among those killed and Britain said three Britons were among those killed.
Two Canadians, including a diplomat, two Indians and a South Korean were also reported as among the dead.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address that among the dead were his nephew and nephew's fiancee.
"I feel the pain of every life we have lost, and share your grief at our nation's loss," he said.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said there were still between 10 to 15 gunmen in the shopping centre.
The mall was packed with about 1,000 shoppers when the gunmen launched the attack.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters