The British death toll from the Nairobi attacks has risen to six, according to the Defence Secretary. Philip Hammond spoke on Monday evening following a meeting of the government’s emergency COBRA committee, attended by David Cameron.
The British nationality of the sixth victim has yet to be confirmed, but Hammond said he understood that six Britons had perished in the attack, while warning that the figure could yet still rise. "Our current best estimate is we now have six British nationals who have died in this incident,” Hammond told reporters.
"Of the additional two, one is confirmed and another one we believe to be a British national and we are awaiting final confirmation but we are pretty certain we now have six British nationals who have died. The total number of people dead we believe exceeds 60 and it is possible we will discover further British nationals once the building is fully secure."
Hammond could not confirm reports that British nationals had been involved in the planning or execution of the attack. "I've seen those reports but there's no evidence to support those claims," he said, adding: "We have been in touch with the Kenyan authorities throughout. We have excellent lines of communication with them.
"As the Prime Minister made clear, we have said we will provide them with any assistance which they request. We haven't yet been asked to provide any assistance beyond broad background advice. We maintain continuous contact with the Kenyan authorities and with our own diplomatic post in Nairobi. We'll be monitoring the situation very carefully as it develops overnight."
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Earlier, Kenyan police said three terrorists had been killed and others injured as security forces moved into the Westgate complex in an attempt to bring the three-day stand-off to an end. Eleven soldiers from the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) were also wounded in the fighting.
The official Kenyan police Twitter feed reported that more than 200 civilians had been rescued as troops took control of all the floors of the mall. "Chances of any terrorists sneaking and escaping are very slim. KDF troops have sealed all possible escape routes," it said.
"Fire started in the building by the terrorists to distract the ongoing operation is being managed by fire fighters from different agencies."
The Kenyan authorities have said that 62 civilians have now been confirmed dead while 65 people were being treated in hospital. The start of the final assault was heralded by a series of loud blasts and a barrage of gunfire as a pall of thick black smoke began to rise over the mall.
The chief of the Kenyan defence forces, General Julius Karangi, said the Islamist militants who carried out the attack - thought to number around 10 to 15 - included fighters from various countries.
"We have an idea who these people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," he said. Responsibility for the attack as been claimed by al-Shabab - an Islamist group based in neighbouring Somalia with links to al Qaida.
Kenyan troops have been taking part in an African Union force involved in helping the Somali government to wrest back control of the country from al-Shabab. Earlier, a Twitter account purporting to belong to an al-Shabab spokesman named a 24-year-old man from London as one of the gunmen.
The @hsm_press2 account listed a string of names it claimed were involved in the attack before being closed down, as previous usernames linked to the terrorist group had been. The Foreign Office had said earlier it was investigating suggestions that British terrorist suspect Samantha Lewthwaite - known as the "White Widow" - who was married to one of the 7/7 bombers, was among the attackers, after initial reports that a number of women were involved.
However the Kenyan authorities have now said all the militants were male, although some are said to have been dressed as women. Speaking on Sunday, Cameron was at pains to stress that the perpetrators did not represent the majority of Muslims but carried out the atrocity "in the name of terror, violence and extremism".
"These appalling terrorist attacks that take place, where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion, they don't," he said. "They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world."
Cameron, who was staying with the Queen at Balmoral, returned to London to chair this evening's meeting of Cobra. The crisis began on Saturday when 10 to 15 al-Shabab extremists stormed the mall, throwing grenades and firing on terrified shoppers. The terrorists roamed through the complex reportedly seeking to separate Muslims - who were allowed to leave - from non-Muslims, who were killed or taken hostage.