The city of Nairobi in Kenya resembles a war zone after a group of heavily armed terrorists walked into the Westgate Mall and opened fire on patrons. The attack began without warning around lunch time on Saturday and shoppers initially assumed that it was a robbery. They soon realised that the masked attackers were not there to rob the shops or the patrons for that matter; they were there to shoot at and kill as many people as they could. In a brazen and shocking scene, the attackers started shooting randomly at everyone in sight.
Witnesses and survivors say that the attackers claimed to be members of a Somali Islamist group called al-Shabaab. The attackers allegedly told terrified shoppers that they stood a better chance of surviving the massacre if they were Muslims as Hindus and Christians would definitely be killed.
Around 50 people have died in the shooting and Kenyan police confirmed the death of one of the shooters. The victims include Kenyans and foreigners who were in the country for business as well as vacations. A Kenyan radio personality was killed in the attack. The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and his family were also affected by the shooting. His nephew and nephew’s fiancée were both fatally shot.
A South African man has been included in the death toll. Cape Town resident James Thomas was on a business trip in Kenya this weekend. Thomas and his colleagues were at the mall together but got separated just minutes before the attack. He was reported missing on Saturday afternoon and by noon on Sunday, his family had been notified of his death.
A Mail and Guardian report raises the possibility that the widow of the London 7/7 bomber could have been actively involved in the horrific attack at the Westgate Mall. Witnesses noticed that some of the attackers dressed in black and military-style gear were women. An image of a white woman wearing a balaclava and holding a gun was shared on social networks. It fuelled speculation that 29 year-old Samantha Lethwaite, also known as “White Widow”, is one of the attackers that are facing off with the police at the mall. Media reports gave Lethwaite the title of world’s most wanted woman and allege that the USA will happily pay $ 10 million for her capture, dead or alive.
On Sunday night, President Kenyatta addressed the nation at a media briefing. He said: “The cowardly perpetrators have been pinned down in a corner and it is only a matter of time before we capture them swiftly and painfully.” He tried to calm the nation with the news that few hostages remained trapped inside the mall as the majority had been rescued. The Kenyan National Disaster Operation Centre used popular social network Twitter to affirm its position on the incident. “This will end tonight. Our forces will prevail. Kenyans are standing firm against aggression, and we will win.”
Prayers of support and messages of condolences for the families of the victims of the Kenyan Mall Massacre continue to flood social networks and other media platforms. The world awaits the speedy conclusion of this tragic incident.