(WNN) Nairobi, KENYA, EASTERN AFRICA: Statements of condolence and concern came from the Office of the United Nations Secretary General over 36 hours ago as the those involved in an armed siege in the Westgate Shopping Mall in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi continued. People trapped inside Nairobi’s popular upscale shopping mall were targets after a group of armed assailants, with what some witnesses had conveyed “were machine-guns” attacked customers who were there shopping.
Along with others, 2 separate women from the United States have survived the attacks that included bombs and gunfire coming from what many believe to be were members of the militant Somali extremist group known as Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin, commonly known as al-Shabaab.
“This premeditated act, targeting defenceless civilians, is totally reprehensible,” said the special representative who read a statement made by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on September 21.
“The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Kenyan people at this time,” Secretary Ban continued.
30-year-old Bendita Malakia from Elisabeth City, North Carolina (U.S.) is one of the survivors, who managed to stay out of the dangerous path of the attack. Hiding behind a partition in the back of a a small store in the Westgate Mall where she, her friend, the store owner and about a ten others hid. Malakia waited with the others for over 4 hours as they heard the sounds of the attackers, the injured people and the violence as the assailants went from store to store. Everyone who hid with Bendita, and her friend, survived the attack with few injuries but others were not so lucky.
Malakia had originally gone to the shopping mall to meet her friend for lunch as they sat in a cafe together eating as the sounds of gunfire descended on them. After running fast they found a place to hide away from the attackers. As they waiting for an ‘hoped for’ rescue Malakia wrote a personal message to her parents in case she didn’t make it out.
“We heard machine guns and then, we started to run and there was a second explosion which knocked us on the ground,” outlined Malakia on a Skype describing her ordeal to WAVY TV in Portsmouth, Virginia (U.S.).
“You could hear people that had been shot, that was in pain, you could hear that,” outlined Malakia’s U.S. based mother as she shared her daughter’s description of the event.
U.S. 26-year-old American Elaine Dang, a University of California Berkely graduate was in Nairobi as one of the managers of ‘Eat Out Kenya‘ when she was coordinating a food festival and cooking event at Westgate Mall, sponsored by the local restaurant guide and booking service. She was also a survivor of the mall violence, but she did not escape without first receiving injuries to her head, arms and legs during the attacks. In a message to the public Dang did send a photo tweet to her followers showing her laying in a hospital bed with a bandage on her head with friends surrounded her.
“I am recovering. Thank you for all the love and support – in Kenya and overseas. Terrorism knows no religion,” said Dang in her tweet on Twitter yesterday.
Some of the others from Eat Out Kenya who were setting up for the event were also injured.
“The EatOut Family is shocked and horrified at the incidents that have taken place today at Westgate Mall. We send our condolences to everyone who was in the Mall today, and to all the families of those who have been hurt and injured. Members of our team who were at the Mall are all stable and being looked after. We have lost friends today and pray for the hostage situation to end,” said Eat Out Kenya on their Facebook page following the attacks.
“WE ARE KENYANS – We have never been separated by religion, colour or creed,” added Eat Out Kenya.
During the attacks U.S. American Muslim and Director of Elementary Education Ms. Fawzia Keval has lost a niece in the violence. Keval’s neice, 22-year-old Rehmat Mehboob, was one of the casualties as she was allowed by the assailants to leave the mall, but it was then as she ran in trying to leave that she shot in the back. Keval’s nephew was also shot as he ran with his sister to escape the assailants, but he has survived his injuries.
Keval who works as a director with Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento, California U.S. is also a native of Kenya who understands the political climate inside the Kenyan region, especially trouble for Kenya with Somali extremists. In trying to make sense of the violence Keval is now working to convey to the public that those responsible for this violence are ‘extremists’ and nothing like all the ‘peace loving’ Muslims she knows.
“They are not representing Muslims. They are not representing Islam. They’re representing their own cause,” Keval outlined during a recent interview with News10 ABC TV in Sacramento.
“I call them crazy. I call them cowardly. I call them barbaric,” she continued. “They are just hiding behind the name of religion.”
Current reports now have numbered the casualties in Nariobi to be 62 with approximately 175 injured and over 200 rescued since Kenya’s security forces entered the mall to push back the assailants. This final push began as smoke from a building at the mall could be seen from far away through the air on the edge of Nairobi as the evening sun was setting on September 23.
In June 2012 the U.S. Department of State authorized a $7 million dollar (USD) reward for any information leading to the location of al-Shabaab founder Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed. Along with this the State Department offered $5 million each for information leading to the location of those next in line to the leadership.
After announcing responsibility for the violence on a Twitter account today operated by al-Shabaab, which has since been shut down by Twitter officials, al-Shahaab is said to have released the names of 9 people they claimed to have been conspirators in the attacks. The true names and identities of the persons involved have not yet been confirmed.
“The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Nairobi, which has caused numerous deaths and injuries. The members of the Security Council extend their condolences to the victims and their families, as well as to the people and the Government of Kenya,” said Security Council Press President Gary Quinlan for the UN General Assembly on September 21 at the start of the violence in Nairobi.
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