Kenya: An Unfolding Tragedy
Westgate Mall, located in Nairobi, Kenya, the pinnacle of opulence in Eastern Africa and not unlike many Western malls. It is the last place one would expect a terrorist attack to occur; yet that is exactly what took place on September 21, 2013.
The attack began Saturday afternoon, denoted by a large-scale explosion that rocked the food court and left many dead almost immediately, ending after four days when the attackers were either shot down or taken into custody by police.
The siege left a field of bodies and terrified civilians in its wake, including victims from North America, India, Britain, and Australia, and scores more injured. Survivors recount how the terrorists stormed through the mall, weapons in tow, questioning frightened shoppers of their religion. Any hesitation was met with an immediate gunshot to the head. Any person who claimed they were Muslim were asked to prove their devotion to the faith by reciting a verse from the Koran before being set free, unharmed.
Though the attack continued well into Sunday, September 22 and Monday, September 23, as many as one thousand hostages and survivors are thought to have been rescued by the Kenyan Army. Tuesday evening, Kenyan officials declared an end to the siege, announcing they “ashamed and defeated [their] attackers.” The most recent figure amounts the death toll as 72 official casualties reported; but there are still dozens more civilians trapped beneath the rubble of the half-collapsed mall, many more are still listed as missing.
Reports indicate that as many as 11 people were taken into custody in connection to the attack. Kenyan officials say this attack was comprised of male Muslim extremists from a rampant terrorist group in Somalia. However, a recent investigation by Kenyan officials confirms two U.S. teenagers were among the attackers, as well as one British woman. NBC News reports that U.S. policy makers have yet to make a statement regarding the alleged involvement of U.S. citizens, but are “investigating the matter fully.”
Meanwhile, countless families mill around the rubble that was once the beautiful Westgate Mall as they wait for news of their loved ones, answers from the government, and justice for the countless lives lost in the most devastating terrorist attack Kenya has seen in over two decades. Families from all over the world who have suffered losses in this ruthless and vicious attack attempt to cope with their losses while others are forced to keep vigil outside the morgue, dreading that their missing loved ones do not turn up on the ever growing list of casualties.