Militants hold out as Kenya forces try to crush cross-border jihad

Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:33pm EDT
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* Kenya to remain pillar of east African stability-Obama

* Number of fighters and hostages remains unclear

* Besieged mall symbol of African economic boom

* Interior Ministry says it believes all hostages free

By Duncan Miriri and James Macharia

NAIROBI, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Islamist fighters from Somalia's al Shabaab held out at a Nairobi shopping centre after killing at least 62 people, surrounded by Kenyan forces trying to crush their group's cross-border jihad.

President Barack Obama offered U.S. support as the raid went into its fourth day, saying he believed Kenya - the scene of one of al Qaeda's first major attacks and a neighbour of chaotic Somalia - would continue to be a regional pillar of stability.

It remained unclear how many fighters and hostages were still cornered in Nairobi's Westgate shopping centre on Tuesday, after a series of blasts and gunfire were followed by black smoke billowing from one part of the complex on Monday.

However, the Interior Ministry said on Twitter it was "in control" of the mall and believed all hostages had been freed.   Continued...