Black smoke rose Monday afternoon over the besieged mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where security forces have been in a standoff with terrorists.
Gunshots also were heard outside the Westgate Shopping Mall about 1:20 p.m. Nairobi time, but it was not clear whether the siege, in its third day, was nearing an end.
Kenyan authorities claimed earlier Monday that they had made progress against terrorists inside the mall, where at least 69 people have died.
Terrorists from the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab group were believed to have about 10 remaining hostages on one level of the mall, security officials said. Other mall levels had been cleared Monday.
“All efforts are underway to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion,” the Kenyan military said on Twitter about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Another tweet said that “most of the hostages have been rescued and security forces have taken control of most parts of the building.”
An unspecified number of hostages then were freed overnight, the head of the Kenyan police force said.
Inspector General David Kimaiyo tweeted at noon Monday local time: “We have managed to rescue more hostages overnight and very few are remaining. We are also closing in on the attackers.”
Outside the security perimeter around the mall, volunteers waited Monday for their chance to go inside and recover bodies.
At a community center nearby, a distraught woman continued to seek information about her missing husband, a mall employee.
Sporadic gunfire continued into Monday morning, but it could not be determined if security forces or militants were firing at each other.
Israeli special forces were at the scene, Kenyan government sources told several international media.
The FBI is looking into claims by Al-Shabaab of American citizens being involved the attack but have not confirmed the claims, law enforcement officials told CNN.
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