NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Kenyan's military said late Sunday it had rescued "most" of the remaining hostages held by al-Qaida-linked militants in an upscale Nairobi mall after launching a major operation to end a two-day standoff that had already killed 68 people.
The assault, which began shortly before sundown, came as two helicopters circled the mall, with one skimming very close to the roof. A loud explosion rang out, far larger than any previous grenade blast or gunfire volley.
Kenya Defence Forces said it had rescued most hostages and had taken control of most of the mall. Officials did not immediately release the number of hostages rescued or the number that remained. Officials said four Kenyan military personnel were wounded in the operation.
Kenya's Disaster Operation Center said late Sunday that "this will end tonight. Our forces will prevail."
Word of the Kenyan assault comes shortly after a large blast echoed from the mall, around the start of the operation.
Before the assault two helicopters hovered over the mall, skimming the roof. Al-Shabab militants reacted angrily to the helicopters on Twitter and said the Kenyan military action was endangering hostages.
Gunmen used grenades and assault rifles in Saturday's attack at the Westgate mall in Nairobi. Somali militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
An estimated 10 to 15 militants remain in the shopping mall holding an unknown number of captives. The Kenyan military has entered the four-story mall and there have been sporadic gun battles. Some Kenyan military were seen carrying in at least two rocket propelled grenades. Earlier military helicopters hovered over the mall.
Here are details about some of the victims:
The wife of a foreign service national working for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed, and four American citizens were reported injured, said U.S. officials.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta says he shares the grief of the nation -- his nephew and nephew's fiancee are among the dead.
Two Indians were killed and four wounded in the attack, said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for India's External Affairs Ministry.
Britain's Foreign Office said at least three U.K. nationals were killed in the attack and warned that the number of such fatalities is "likely to rise as further information becomes available."
French President Francois Holland said two French women were killed.
One South African citizen was killed, said the country's International Relations Department.
Two Canadians -- including a diplomat -- died in the attack, according to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He paid tribute to the victims and noted the loss of diplomat Annemarie Desloges, who served in Canada's High Commission to Kenya as a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency.
Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor died after being injured in the attack, Ghana's presidential office said. In addition to his writings, Awoonor was a professor and a former ambassador Brazil, Cuba and the United Nations.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said Sunday a 33-year-old Dutch woman died in the attack and that seven other Dutch citizens who were in the mall escaped unharmed. The victim's identity was not released.
A 38-year-old Chinese woman was killed in the shopping mall "terror attack," the Chinese Embassy in Kenya said in a statement. Her son was injured and hospitalized in stable condition, according to the statement posted on the embassy's website.