By Nyambega Gisesa
The Westgate attackers arrived at 11.30 am in three vehicles and remained in their cars. Their continued stay in the cars raised suspicion of private security guards (Securex) guarding the building.
Alarmed by the men in cars, the Securex guards made a call to Parklands Police Station asking for help.
Meanwhile, one of the Securex supervisors carrying a hand-held communication radio moved towards the cars to confront the visitors.
The terrorists shot the private guards’ supervisor and then came out and started shooting indiscriminately at people.
Inside the building there were various armed people. There were at least 12 off-duty British SAS officers, US marines with a UN diplomat and several others.
At the roof of the building there was a cooking competition for children.
According to Raisah Viranah, a 15-year-old witness, six of the terrorists were stationed at the rooftop and shot at anyone who looked at them in the eye.
Witness Bernard Wambua of Radio Africa Group says he saw a white woman leading the attack. He said the woman shot at people scattering for safety.
The white woman was the one pointing out at targets and telling the men to shoot at.
With her gun, she shot at a gas cylinder at the venue of the East FM-organised cooking competition for children resulting in a small fire. She also shot at several microwaves.
The men who attacked the roof top parking lot were wearing jeans and T-shirts, one with an Arabic headscarf wrapped around his head. They had pistols sticking out of pockets and were carrying huge guns.
The terrorists shot at anyone who screamed.
With the shooting intensifying, various units from the National Police Service namely Flying Squad, Special Crimes Unit and Administration Police responded.
A few minutes after the attack, the first police officers, nine in number, entered the building thinking that it was a normal robbery.
The British SAS officer managed to kill two of the terrorists. Lower Kabete police chief Stephen Lelei who was coordinating the officers was injured at about 2.28pm and a fellow policeman was shot dead.
Over an hour later at about 4pm, the police made the first attempt to advance into the building and were forced to retreat after facing heaving fire.
Meanwhile, the terrorists went on killing hostages in the mall.
According to doctors called to the mall after the end of the siege and from recollections of photos in our possession, the terrorists removed the balls, eyes, nose and ears of hostages. They forced the hostages to use their chopped off hands to write their names.
They ripped noses using pliers and cut fingers with knives and hanged some of the hostages instead of shooting them dead. They also sent chopped limbs down the escalator to people eagerly waiting to rescue hostages.
The terrorists hid behind tinted window panes only to open fire on civilians who were being rescued. When they were being attacked, they used hostages as human shields.
Attackers completely burnt the bodies of fellow terrorists whenever they were killed.
Among them were snipers who are said to have killed and injured most of the KDF men.