Kenyan troops are locked in a firefight with Somalian militants. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

The Root's editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., lamented the loss of 78-year-old Kofi Awoonor, a noted literary figure, who was among 39 people killed during a militant attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, according to news reports.

"Kofi Awoonor was one of the pioneering figures in the history of African literature," Gates said in an email statement. "This is a senseless, devastating loss."

Ghanaian government officials on Sunday confirmed that Awoonor, a Ghanaian poet and diplomat, died of injuries sustained in Saturday's attack, according to the Telegraph. His son was shot in the shoulder during the incident, for which the Somali militant group al Shabaab has claimed responsibility. An estimated 100 were reportedly injured in the assault and the death toll continues to climb, reports show.

The Telegraph reports that Awoonor was in Nairobi to speak at the Storymoja Hay Festival and was scheduled to perform Saturday evening along with Ghanaian poets Nii Parkes and Kwame Dawes.

Awoonor was born in 1935 and became known for his poetry, early collections of which were heavily inspired by the dirge singing and oral poetry of his native Ewe tribe. He published his first collection, Rediscovery and Other Poems, in 1964. Awoonor gained a masters degree in literature at University College London in 1970. His second collection, Night of My Blood, was released in 1971 and was a series of poems that explore Awoonor's roots and the impact of colonialism and foreign rule in Africa.


Read more at the Telegraph.