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One day, many dead: The start of Kenya mall siege


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Al-Shabab once controlled wide swaths of Somalia, bringing with it a harsh version of Islam that required punishments such as stoning adulterers to death. The group has been threatening revenge on Kenya since 2011, when Kenyan soldiers crossed into Somalia and helped hobble the al-Qaida-linked militants.

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The group said in an emailed statement after the attack that "any part of the Kenyan territory is a legitimate target. ... Kenya should be held responsible for the loss of life."

Authorities believe the group had planned long in advance, scouting the mall carefully.

"They likely had cased the location for some time and knew very well the best place and time to attack," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The gunmen, for the most part, are dressed casually. Many are in khakis and long-sleeved shirts. Some have checked scarves around their necks or flung over their heads. Only some are wearing bulletproof vests.

Most carry AK-47 or G3 assault rifles, weapons widely used in the region and easily available on the black market.

But some of the gunmen are draped with belts of large-caliber ammunition, and witnesses hear the fast, frightening, echoing blasts of heavy machine-gun fire.

As they storm through the mall, the music system keeps playing, an undertone to the explosions and screams. The music of Adele and Ne-Yo filters through the carnage.

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story continues below

Millionaires Casino crawl space, 12:57 p.m.:

"Are you okay???"

"Mum??"

"Can u message us Mum???" — Text messages Khan received from her 24-year-old daughter while in hiding.

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Parking area, third-level rooftop, about 1:30 p.m.:

The young mother watches the gunman shoot. Crowds of people are stumbling, screaming, falling around her.

He is calm.

She is terrified.

Sneha Kothari-Mashru, 28 and a part-time radio DJ, watches through a tangle of her long brown hair, which she has thrown across her face to appear as if she is already among the dead. She has smeared blood onto her arm and her clothes, taking it from the corpse of a teenage boy. She has kicked off her blue high heels.

The gunman doesn’t scream, she recalls days later. He rarely speaks. There is no obvious anger in his expression. He seems confident, she says. "He was normal."

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