Violence shot out in Nairobi, Kenya today when shoppers huddled together in an attempt to avoid Islamic extremist gunmen who entered the mall with assault rifles blazing and hand grenades being thrown, according to the Associated Press.
More than 150 shoppers were wounded and at least 39 were killed in the tragedy. Kenya’s president reported the incident on TV, including a statement that his close family members were some of those killed in the mall.
Victims stated foreigners were killed. Two Canadians and two French women were among those slaughtered. One of the Canadian victims was a prime minister. The gunmen wounded two American citizens, but they were not killed in the early Sunday morning killing spree.
The gunmen remained inside the mall for over 12 hours, holding hostages.
Around noon on Saturday, gunmen reportedly asked people if they were Muslims. Anyone who answered “yes” was allowed to leave. Those who stated they were not Muslim were not allowed to go and were killed.
Responsibility for the deaths was claimed by Somalia’s Islamic extremist group who said the killing spree was a payback for the 2011 attack on Somalia by Kenyan armed forces. The group threatened numerous attacks.
Al-Shabab released a tweet that Kenyan officials wished to negotiate terms with the group. Al-Shabab used Twitter to make the statement that “there will be no negotiations whatsoever.”
Inside the Westgate Mall, witnesses spotted at least five gunmen. They believed one of the attackers was a woman.
As the attack began, shoppers huddled into corners, inside hallways and inside bank vaults to elude the group. After a little time elapsed, people began to rush out of the mall as quickly as they could. Those wounded were placed inside shopping carts and wheeled out to safety.
Gunmen ordered Muslims to leave the mall, as non-Muslims were the main target of the attack, reported one eye-witness.
Jay Patel hid on a top floor of the mall when he heard shots ring out. As he peered out of a window, he could see the parking lot of the mall. He saw the gunmen standing with a group of people. Patel reported that he saw the gunmen speaking to the group. A few of the people in the area were allowed to leave, while the remaining people were shot.
AK-47s and hand grenades were used in the attack, reported Manish Turohit, 18. Turohit luckily survived the attack by hiding out in the parking garage for over two hours.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somalia’s president, stated:
These heartless acts against defenseless civilians, including innocent children, are beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Kenya in its time of grief for these lives lost and the man injured.