By Kevin Bogardus - 09/22/13 10:41 AM EDT
The White House on Saturday condemned a terrorist attack at a Kenyan shopping mall that has left dozens dead.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the despicable terrorist attack on innocent civilians today at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya," said Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, in a statement.
Several press reports on Saturday had al Shabaab, an Islamic militant group based in Somalia and linked to al Qaeda, claiming responsibility for the attack. Several gunmen reportedly stormed the shopping center located in an affluent Nairobi neighborhood. U.S. citizens have been injured in the shooting, according to reports received by the State Department.
A Kenyan minister said at least 59 people had been killed and another 175 wounded, the Associated Press reported early Sunday.
"The perpetrators of this heinous act must be brought to justice, and we have offered our full support to the Kenyan Government to do so. We will continue to stand with the Kenyan people in their efforts to confront terrorism in all its forms, including the threat posed by al Shabaab. This cowardly act against innocent civilians will not shake our resolve," Hayden said.
In a statement issued later on Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. government is ready to help Kenya recover from the attack.
"I want to express my deepest condolences - and the condolences of our entire nation - to the families and friends of the victims in Nairobi today," Kerry said. "We have offered our assistance to the Government of Kenya and stand ready to help in any way we can."
The State Department has had reports of U.S. citizens being injured in the attack that has left dozens dead and even more injured. Kerry said no Americans were killed in the mass shooting but the spouse of a U.S. Agency for International Development worker had been killed. "Although we have no reports of any Americans killed today, we have lost a member of our own State Department family: the wife of a foreign service national working for the U.S. Agency for International Development. The men and women of USAID work courageously around the world to help people striving for a better life," Kerry said.
"While we mourn with her family today, we also pledge our commitment to do whatever we can to assist in bringing the perpetrators of this abhorrent violence to justice, and to continue our efforts to improve the lives of people across the globe."
The Westgate shopping mall is in a high-end Nairobi neighborhood often visited by expatriates.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that at least 30 people had been killed and more than 60 injured in the attack.
This story was posted on Saturday at 2:07 p.m. and last updated on Sunday at 6:41 a.m.