Armed police leave the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Gunmen...

Armed police leave the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire, killing at least 39 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims in Kenya's capital, a Red Cross official and witnesses said. (Sept. 21, 2013) Credit: AP

UNITED NATIONS -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Sunday denounced the attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that left dead at least 68 people -- including a world-renowned Ghanaian poet -- and scores more injured.

"I condemn in the strongest terms yesterday's [Saturday's] terrorist attack at Nairobi's Westgate Mall," Ban said in a statement as delegations of diplomats from all over the world arrived in New York for the start of the UN General Assembly today. "This premeditated act, targeting defenseless civilians, is totally reprehensible. The perpetrators must be brought to justice as soon as possible."

The attack, which media reports said was carried out with grenades and assault rifles, is believed to have been orchestrated by al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked group that claimed it was retaliating for Kenyan forces' intervention in Somalia in 2011.

Some 68 people were confirmed dead, but Kenyan authorities said they rescued most hostages during a nighttime assault by the nation's defense forces, which regained control of most of the mall. At least 175 people, some children, were hurt when the al-Shabab militants stormed the mall.

"Today's terrorist massacre of so many innocents is a heartbreaking reminder that there exists unspeakable evil in our world, which can destroy life in a senseless instant," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, adding that the wife of a U.S. Agency for International Development worker also was killed. "I want to express my deepest condolences -- and the condolences of our entire nation -- to the families and friends of the victims in Nairobi today."

A former UN staffer and foreign nationals from Britain, France, Canada, India, South Africa and China also were killed.

"Nairobi is the United Nations' main headquarters in Africa, with a wide-ranging presence and hundreds of national and international staff," Ban said. "I am saddened to report that a retired staff member of UNICEF was among those killed in the attack. I offer my condolences to his family."

He added: "This is a time of shock for all Kenyans and all -- including the UN family -- who are proud to call Nairobi home. I express my solidarity with them at this moment of grief and loss."

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