Nairobi mall massacre

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People who had been hiding flee the mall. /image: Jonathon Kalanzap

People who had been hiding flee the mall. /image: Jonathon Kalanzap

Over 68 killed from attack, death toll expected to rise

Article: Ravinesh Sakaran – Contributor

Sep. 21, 2013 will go down as one of the darkest days in modern Kenyan history as it witnessed a terrorist attack in the nation’s capital, Nairobi.

According to CNN, a group of gunmen from the Somalian Islamic extremist group, al-Shabab stormed the Westgate Mall at lunchtime, armed with heavy artillery and explosives. The al-Qaeda militant group besieged the mall for four days prompting a bloody battle with the Kenyan Security Forces.

The Kenyan Security Forces emerged victorious, but with a cost: at least 61 civilians dead, six dead security officers and some 175 injuries.

62 people remain hospitalized.

The National Post confirms that at least 18 foreigners were killed, including citizens from Britain, France, Canada, Trinidad, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.

CTV reports that one of the two Canadians who was killed in the attack was 29-year-old Annemarie Desloges, a Canadian diplomat. Desloges was working as a liaison officer with the Canadian Border Services Agency in Kenya. Desloges came to Kenya two years ago and has worked for the Canadian government since 2008. She is survived by her husband Robert Munk, who was injured in the attack.

Al-Shabab, who claimed responsibility for the siege, said that the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into Somalia. Al-Shabab also confirmed to the Associated Press that they targeted non-Muslim foreigners. In an email exchange with the Associated Press, al-Shabab said “the Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar (disbelievers) before carrying out their attack.”

Joshua Hakim, a clerk, was on his way to buy some Heineken at the Westgate Mall when around 10-15 Islamist militants stormed the mall and started shooting men, women and children. “I heard them yell out, ‘Muslims, get out of here!’’’ as Hakim recounted his ordeal to the New York Times.

“I got the courage to stand up and pull out my voting card, and I held it in such a way only Hakim showed.”

Hakim is not Muslim. He is a born-again Christian, he said, but his last name saved his life. When the militants armed with “big guns, huge guns, I don’t know what kind of guns those were,” Hakim said saw his last name, which is often an Arabic name, they grunted and let him pass.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told PBS NewsHour that two or three Americans and one British woman were involved in the attack.

“The Americans, from the information we have, are young men, about between maybe 18 and 19.”

They are of Somali origin, but lived in Minnesota or other parts of the United States, she said, adding that underlines “the global nature of this war that we’re fighting.”

The British woman is rumored to be Samantha Lewthwaite who is also known as the “white widow”. Lewthwaite, 29, is the widow of the London 7/7 bomber, Germaine Lindsay. She has been on the run in east Africa for two years after allegedly plotting to attack western targets in Kenya. Interpol has since issued an international arrest warrant for her.

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