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Mystery of nine unidentified bodies in Red Cross report of Westgate attack

By PAUL WAFULA | Updated Thu, September 18th 2014 at 00:04 GMT +3
Kenya Red Cross personnel rescue a woman after the terror attack on Westgate
Shopping Mall last year. [PHOTO: FILE]

NAIROBI: A Kenya Red Cross report says 76 people were killed in the September 21 terror attack at Westgate Mall, but only 67 bodies were identified.

This implies that at least nine bodies may not have been positively identified.

“After the attack, 76 fatalities were reported to KRCS (Kenya Red Cross Society), out of which 67 bodies were identified positively,” says the report prepared for its global network, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to pitch for more funding says.

The revelation by the humanitarian organisation, whose rescuers were the first at the scene, reignites debate on just how many people were actually killed in the four-day siege even as the country marks one year anniversary.

The Kenyan Government is also yet to conclusively deal with the issues of where the bodies of the Al Shabaab terror gang that raided the mall, even as the country commemorates one year since the attack.

Already, a number of police officers involved in the operation independently told The Standard that there may have been more people killed than initially reported.

Most of those killed were on the rooftop, the entrance to the shopping mall and in the shops inside the mall. In addition, the terrorists shot dead motorists in their cars as they attempted to escape or were stuck in traffic jams around the mall.

According to the report, 119 persons were reported missing immediately after the attack.

However by the end of the operation, 101 cases were found either alive or dead, 16 cases are yet to be found while two cases are still pending.

Kenya Red Cross has spent over Sh508 million sourced from both international partners and Kenyans in its humanitarian operation following the mall attack.

A Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of about Sh20 million (Swiss Francs 204,841) was initially allocated from the federation to support Kenya Red Cross to respond.

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

According to the report, the Kenya Red Cross received another Sh338 million from its international partners for its emergency response to save lives and another Sh150 million was given by Kenyans.

The report covering the period between October 2013 and June 2014 documents that the Westgate shopping mall was attacked by an armed group on September 21, 2013, shortly before 1pm.

The popular shopping mall was a four-storey building that comprised 80 shops with a basement and rooftop parking housing the mainstream department stores, banks, phone centres and electronic shops, boutiques, coffee shops, movie theatre and party/amusement areas.

It was a convenient one-stop centre for family shopping and entertainment. On an average weekend, around 10,000 people would visit the mall.

“The casualties rescued from the rubble were taken to six hospitals namely Aga Khan, Avenue, MP Shah, Mater, Guru Nanak, and Nairobi Hospital with a total number of 194 casualties admitted in all these hospitals,” the 12-page report says in part.

According to the report, a total of 3,410 people were reached during the first phase of the psychosocial support service, which includes counselling.

In the aftermath of the Westgate Mall terrorist attack, the Kenya Red Cross on September 22, 2013, made an appeal to assist the victims of the tragedy.

“Due to the mass casualty attendance, there was a shortage of blood and KRCS appealed for a countrywide blood drive, which took place for six days across the country from 22 to 27 September 2013, and a total of 17,230 units of blood were collected.”

Kenyans responded to the We Are One initiative, which saw Safaricom spearhead a fundraising drive. Well-wishers from all walks of life raised a total of Sh102 million.

The management of the relief kitty also fell under the mandate of the Kenya Red Cross Society.

According to Safaricom, the funds included Sh71 million raised on the M-Pesa platform, Sh410,157 was received from Kenyans and other well-wishers living in the diaspora and a further Sh30 million contribution from the Safaricom and the M-Pesa Foundations.

“Funds were designated to support five areas; Medical Emergency Grant, trauma counselling, ambulance services, blood donor services and blood transfusion services at Kenyatta National Hospital,” said Nzioka Waita, director of corporate affairs at Safaricom, in an email response.

The Kenya Red Cross said that in total, Sh150 million was collected to the kitty from Kenyans at home and abroad through the We Are One campaign.

PSYCHOSOCIAL SERVICES

Kenya Red Cross Society’s External Relations and Resource Mobilisation Director Wariko Jacqueline Waita said medicals bills for 194 Westgate survivors have been settled and have reached 1,594 people with psychosocial support.

She says, however, that the uptake of the psychosocial services was slow in the beginning.

“Due to the nature of the injuries, treatment has been ongoing making the intervention of recovery extend for much longer than originally expected,” Ms Wariko said.

The KRCS team comprised 28 volunteers, 32 responders from EPlus and 20 staff.

Following the attack, the humanitarian organisation is targeting to increase awareness to a population of 25,000 people on how to react during and following disasters and or social disruptions.



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