Obama offers Kenyans condolences, support following mall attack

President Obama called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday after terrorists attacked a high-end Nairobi shopping mall this weekend.

Obama expressed “condolences to the government and people of Kenya for the terrorist attack carried out by al-Shabaab yesterday on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi,” according to a readout of the call provided by the White House.

Obama also said the United States would support Kenya as it works to bring the attackers to justice.

“President Obama reiterated U.S. support for Kenya’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice. The president also reaffirmed the strong and historic partnership between the United States and Kenya as well as our shared commitment to combating terrorism and promoting peace and prosperity in East Africa and around the world,” the White House said.

Al Shabaab, an Islamic militant group based in Somalia and linked to al Qaeda, has reportedly claimed credit for the attack.

On Saturday, gangs of masked gunmen stormed the mall, frequented by wealthy expatriates, and began shooting people. The attackers have taken hostages in the mall and have engaged in shootouts with the Kenyan military on Sunday, according to CBS News.

“The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is closely monitoring the situation, which is still unfolding, and we have offered our full support to the Kenyan authorities,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement on Sunday. 

“We commend the courageous response by Kenyan security personnel and first responders, governmental and non-governmental, who have stepped forward to help their fellow Kenyan citizens and citizens of other countries affected by this senseless violence. We stand together with Kenya in our resolve to confront and defeat violent extremism. We stand ready to assist Kenya in finding those who did this and in holding them accountable,” she added.

The State Department said five American citizens were among the 175 injured in the attack, but there are no reports of American fatalities. Fifty-nine people were killed, according to Kenya’s government.

All U.S. government employees are accounted for, the State Department said, although the spouse of a Foreign Service National working for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed in the attack.

Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the attack on Sunday before a meeting with Egypt’s foreign minister in New York, saying “obviously it’s an enormous offense against everybody’s sense of right and wrong.”

“It represents the seriousness and the breadth of the challenge that we face with ruthless and completely reckless terrorists,” he said.

--This report was updated at 8:46 p.m.