AMSTERDAM - Lawyers for Kenyan deputy president William Ruto asked judges to adjourn his International Criminal Court (ICC) trial to allow him to return home to deal with an armed attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, according to a court filing seen by Reuters on Sunday.
In the filing, lawyers say Ruto, who is in the Hague defending himself against charges of crimes against humanity over his alleged involvement in a wave of violence after the 2007 elections, is needed at home to help with security briefings and consultations.
Kenyan security forces were locked in a standoff on Sunday with gunmen who stormed an upmarket shopping mall in Nairobi, where the al Qaeda-linked militants were holding an unknown number of hostages.
The Somali Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack on the Kenyan capital's Westgate mall, which is frequented by Westerners as well as Kenyans. Several foreigners, including a Canadian diplomat, were among the dead.
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters the death toll had risen to 59, and that security forces were doing everything they could to rescue hostages still inside the mall.
COMBING THE MALL
He added that 175 people had been taken to hospital after an assault that could prove a costly setback for east Africa's biggest economy, which relies heavily on tourism revenues. More than 1,000 people were evacuated in the standoff.
The dead included children, and the wounded ranged in age from 2 to 78. Many victims were at a cooking competition when assailants opened fire on them, witnesses said.
The focus of attention on Sunday was on Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya's biggest chains.
Soldiers joined the security operation backed by armoured personnel carriers in the hours after the attack that was launched around 12.30 p.m. (0930 GMT) on Saturday. Security forces have been combing through the mall, clearing the floors.
As helicopters hovered over the capital, a paramilitary officer at the scene, a rifle slung over his shoulder, said: "They will be arranging how to attack (the assailants)."
One woman emerged on Sunday morning after hiding under a car in the basement. She held one shoe and looked dazed, while making a frantic phone call to her husband who later met her.
France said two of its citizens were killed, and Canada said two Canadians died, including a 29-year-old diplomat. Ghanaian diplomat and poet, Kofi Awoonor, was also killed, as was a Chinese woman, according to China's official news agency.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who offered assistance to Kenya in the incident, said several U.S. citizens had been hurt and the wife of a U.S. diplomat working for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed.
Al Shabaab, which is battling Kenyan and other African peacekeepers in Somalia, had repeatedly threatened attacks in Kenya if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of their country.