Former Stony Brook University instructor Kofi Awoonor among victims of Kenya mall attack

According to officials, African poet Kofi Awoonor taught literature at Stony Brook University in the 70s.

Kenya mall attack victim Kofi Awoonor taught at Stony Brook University in the 1970s.

Kenya mall attack victim Kofi Awoonor taught at Stony Brook University in the 1970s. (9/23/13)

STONY BROOK - A former Stony Brook University writing instructor is among at least 62 people who have been killed in the ongoing terrorist siege at an upscale mall in Kenya.

Kofi Awoonor taught at the university in the 1970s, until he took a sabbatical in 1971 and returned to his native Ghana. Not long after, he was arrested there, and the Long Island Chapter of Amnesty International came to his aid.

Awoonor had been accused of harboring a dissident by the military dictatorship in power at the time. Arthur Dobrin, a co-founding member of the Long Island branch of Amnesty International, says getting Awoonor released was one of the group's first missions.

Those who knew him say he was a poet and a promoter of peace who ironically died in a terror attack. He had been shopping at the mall with his son, who survived the attack.

Kenyan officials say security forces are now in control of nearly all of the upscale mall.

Earlier today, four explosions were heard coming from the mall, followed by volleys of gunfire, and then a dark plume of smoke was visible from the complex. Kenya's interior minister says militants had set fire to mattresses in a supermarket within the mall, but the fire is under control.

Officials in Kenya say they are "very certain" that few, if any, hostages remain in the mall as the siege continues.

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