By Jody Miller
On September 21st, 2013, the Westgate Mall in Narobi, Kenya was attacked shortly after noon, Eastern Africa Time, outside and downstairs of the upscale shopping mall. The attackers, terrorist group Al-Shabaab, commenced the act of terrorism with bursts of gunfire and grenades in an outside cafe, targeted by at least five gunmen, including one women. Eight more gunmen entered the mall and began shooting at shoppers and Kenyan police officers. The affluent, wealthy shoppers ran for their lives, hiding in any place they thought was safe, one of these being the vents. As two squads of gunmen went through the mall, Muslim shoppers were released after reciting a excerpt from the Quran. Al-Shabaab stated that, “Our targets have always been disbelievers, invaders and the apostate governments officials/troops who are allied with them.” Al-Shabaabs controls the majority of Somalia, the country they originate from. They claim, however, that Kenyan troops have caused so much suffering that they deserved this apparent revenge.
Thirty American citizens were inside the mall during the attack, including U.S. embassy personnel. Although all citizens were evacuated and counted for, several were injured, including a Torrey Pines High School alumni. As it became night, police and military surrounded the shopping mall with several helicopters flying above. Around 9:30 a.m. the following day, a heavy fire of artillery erupted from the mall, and two Kenyan security forces came out wounded. A police doctor inspecting the dead has claimed that many victims were tortured before being killed. Even though the claims are unverified, the doctor believes that, “They removed eyes, ears, [and] nose[s]. They get your hand and sharpen it like a pencil then they tell you to write your name with the blood. They drive knives inside child[rens] bod[ies]. Actually, if you look at all the bodies, unless those ones that were escaping, fingers are cut by pliers, the noses are ripped by pliers.” At least 175 people were injured.
As it entered the fourth day, Kenyan officials declared all hostages to be free and that the Kenyan military had gained control back from Al-Shabaab. The attack took the lives of at least 61 civilians, six security officers, and five extremists but, the death toll rises every day. Kenya’s National Intelligence Agency (NIS), has been accused of not sharing intelligence about the attack, however the agency has insisted it did warn the police. Kenyan forensic experts, American FBI agents and Israeli specialists are trying to reconstruct the attack. At least 11 suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack. The car used by the attackers been found according to Kenyan officials. However, no details were disclosed because it is an ongoing investigation. Three of the alleged attackers are from the United States, two from Somalia, and one from each of the following countries: Canada, Finland, Kenya, and the United Kingdom. The FBI is looking into the supposed American attackers, and although not confirmed, they are becoming more confident that Americans were involved.