Luiz Brasil- The Brock Press
At least 59 people have been killed during a violent standoff between Somalian militants and Kenyan security forces inside of a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Over 200 others were injured in the attack, when militants from the al-Shabab movement opened fire on shoppers at Westgate Mall. The injured have reportedly been between the ages of two and 78, with children included among those killed.
As of September 23, the gunmen are held up in an isolated area of the mall and claim to have 36 hostages. A raid of the building would reportedly be difficult because of the many people still inside the mall, either because they are being held hostage or because they are in hiding. Despite this, Kenyan officials have said that “major operations” are underway.
Cecile Ndwiga, a Kenyan citizen, was only able to escape Westgate Mall nearly a day after the shoot-out began, saying that “the shoot out was all over, left, right”. She managed to survive by hiding under a car in the parking garage, while people all around her were gunned down.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta held a news conference following the shoot-out on Sunday in which he stated, “With the professionals on site, we have as good a chance to neutralise the terrorists as we can hope for.”
He also said that Kenya would not give into the terrorists’ demands of removing all Kenyan forces from Somalia, saying, “We have overcome terrorist attacks before,” and that they would “not relent on the war on terror.”
He then addressed the other nations of the world, encouraging them to continue visiting Kenya, a country whose economy is heavily reliant on the income that tourists bring.
He concluded with a warning to al-Shabab.”They shall not get away with their despicable and beastly acts. Like the cowardly perpetrators now cornered in the building, we will punish the masterminds swiftly and, indeed, very painfully”.
President Kenyatta also told the public that he was personally affected by the shooting, “My nephew and his fiancée were among those who died in the attack,” he said. “Many of us have lost loved ones. Let us mourn them all as one nation.”
Abdi Aynte, director of the Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute of Policy Studies, Policy and Security think tank, said that the attack showed “a major failure on the part of Kenyan security forces”. Others have also said that Western agencies failed to foresee this attack, which must have taken a long time to plan.
The al-Shabab movement is based in Somalia and has said that the attack was carried out in retaliation to Kenya’s peacekeeping operations in Somalia. Eye witnesses reported that after 10 to 15 gunmen opened fire on shoppers, they asked all Muslims to leave the building as they were ‘only here to kill non-Muslims’. Those who then tried to leave were asked to name the Mother of the prophet Mohammed, and if answered incorrectly were killed.
The Westgate Mall was most likely chosen as the target of the attack because of the large number of international visitors that it receives. Among those killed were citizens from France, England, America, Ghana, China and a 29 year old Canadian diplomat.