Chicago's Kenyan community concerned about Westgate terror attacks

September 23, 2013 (CHICAGO)

"We have fully cordoned off the building so that there is no room for escapees," Joseph Lenku, Kenyan Interior Minister, said.

Thick smoke was pouring from the mall earlier Monday. The sound of gunfire and loud explosions seemed to be coming from one part of the complex. It remains unclear how many gunmen and hostages are still in the mall.

Government officials say two of the attackers were killed Monday. The terrorists from Somalia threatened to kill hostages if police move in. So far at least 62 people have died in the conflict, leading US President Barack Obama to offer support.

"All of us, as an international community, need to stand against the senseless violence that these kinds of groups represent," Pres. Obama said.

Many Kenyans in the Chicago area followed the events closely. Symon Ogeto runs a travel service that frequently visits the area where the mall is located. His family lives near Westgate Mall.

"I made some calls," Ogeto said. "I was fortunate to be told all of them were OK and everybody was at home."

The nephew of Kenya's president was among those killed in the bloodbath when the siege began on Saturday. The terrorists are said to be affiliated with al-Qaida and based in Somalia. Many Americans were visiting the mall at the time of the attack.

"I just immediately jumped up and grabbed my daughter and ran across the mall," Nick Handler, American tourist, said.

p> While Kenya works to free the final hostages and take the terrorists into custody, the country will also have psychological scars to recover from. And there will likely be an impact on tourism.

"So, when you have acts of terrorism, what has happened in Westgate Mall, it does make my job difficult in promoting travel to Kenya," Ogeto said.

In Washington, officials say they have been monitoring efforts by the Somalian terror group to recruit in the United States. They have not confirmed any Americans are involved at this point, but Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said he has heard there may be an American connection to one of the terrorists.

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