Kenya Defence Forces give horrific accounts, death toll may go up

Wananchi scamper to safety as security officers move in to cordon off the area around Westgate Mall. [PHOTO: STANDARD]
By Nyambega Gisesa and Cyrus Ombati

KENYA: Soldiers who took part in the assault on terrorists at the Westgate Mall Tuesday gave a glimpse of the extent of the horrific attack at the upmarket shopping centre, fuelling fears the death toll would rise significantly.

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops interviewed described the situation inside the building as a “scene from a horror movie.”

“There was blood everywhere. Some bodies were burnt and others rotting,” a soldier told The Standard Tuesday. “The Nakumatt supermarket floor had blood splattered everywhere.”

SEE ALSO: After Uhuru decision on housing, state must listen to people more

In some rooms, bodies were strewn on the floor, added the soldier, who declined to be named as he discussed the sensitive operation.

The casualties

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the confrontation with terrorists left 240 casualties.

For More of This and Other Stories, Grab Your Copy of the Standard Newspaper.  

The President said 67 people, including six security officers, had been killed and 61 were still in hospital following the Saturday morning attack by the terrorists estimated at between 10 and 15.

Red Cross reported 69 had died and the fate of 63 listed missing unclear.

SEE ALSO: The wars in Uhuru and Raila political parties

In a televised address from State House, Nairobi, last night, President Kenyatta said: “Towards the tail end of the operation three floors of the Westgate Mall collapsed and there are several bodies still trapped in the rubble including the terrorists.”

The President said five terrorists had been killed and 11 suspects were in custody. “Intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack... We cannot confirm the details at present... Forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists...,” he said.

“These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are,” declared President Kenyatta, vowing Kenya would not relent in the war against terrorism.

“It has not been an easy time for anyone of us, least of all the affected; Our losses are immense,” the President said as he declared three days of national mourning beginning today, to honour those who lost their lives in the attack. Official flags will fly at half-mast throughout the country during this period.

The Head of State said the agents of terror “had the agenda of perpetrating grievous mayhem in our country, senselessly killing, maiming and traumatising harmless, innocent people...”

SEE ALSO: Renewables top 90pc of Kenya’s power

“We confronted this evil without flinching, contained our deep grief and pain, and conquered it...  As a nation, our head is bloodied, but unbowed... The criminals found us unafraid, as we ever shall be...We cannot be conquered,” President Kenyatta declared.

On Tuesday, The Standard learnt tens of bodies were removed from the building at about 6pm after Special Forces secured it. Several hearses ambulances and were stationed outside the mall.

Another security officer said the mall had been turned into ‘an abattoir’ within half an hour as gunmen went on the rampage. Mortuary attendants from the City Mortuary were called in to the scene. Officials said some of the bodies were badly damaged and needed proper dressing before being moved to the mortuary.

Earlier, security forces had launched the final assault shortly before 6am Tuesday. For hours, bursts of gunfire and explosions were heard coming from the battle weary building.

Roof caved in

SEE ALSO: Uhuru launches Naivasha SGR operations

A section of the roof caved in and photographs emerged of burnt shells of vehicles in the parking that perhaps explained the plume of black smoke that billowed into the skies on Monday.

Authorities confirmed the terrorists had rigged the four-storied building with booby-traps and security forces had to sweep the building, explaining delays in the operation.

“We are doing a clean-up of explosives that had been set up by the terrorists,” the Kenya Police posted on its Twitter account.

Officials also confirmed three KDF soldiers had succumbed to their injuries sustained during the assault against the terrorists. Eight injured soldiers are admitted at the Defence Forces Memorial Hospital.

The fallen soldiers include Jacktone Puodi, 27, who had graduated in 2009 from Moi Barracks, Nairobi.

Puodi responded to the call to duty, and put himself in harms way, to help free terrified hostages, who could have included children like his one-year-old girl.

The gallant soldier himself an orphan, his parents died in 1996, put his life on the line to ensure that innocent civilians were not killed and children robbed of their parents.

Meanwhile, a British national is among seven men who were detained at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The British government confirmed Abdulrazak Sharif Ahmed, 35, is their citizen.

The suspect reportedly had injuries on his body and face when he arrived at JKIA on Monday morning ready to fly out to Turkey.

Police say a dozen people have been arrested for questioning.

At the City mortuary, bodies of those killed in the attack were laid out on metal blocks, victims from all walks of life, lying side-by-side as a deathly stench filled the air.

For many families, the anguished search for loved ones, missing since the siege began Saturday morning, crudely ended here.

Agnes Mutua shed tears as she identified her nephew, whose body she found lying on the cold surface.

Various hospitals

Agnes and her sister, Mary Mureithi, had looked for him at various hospitals hoping to find him alive.

Other families were however lucky. Sundeep Sanbi’s daughter and wife narrowly escaped with their lives. 

Sanbi recounted how he rushed from work to the mall on Saturday on hearing news of the attack. He talked to his wife on phone, as she cowered with her daughter inside one of the shops at the building as the attackers shot indiscriminately.

She was rescued at around 3pm on Saturday, alongside a couple of other people under heavy gunfire.

Do not miss out on the latest news. Join the Standard Digital Telegram channel HERE.

Get the latest summary of news in your email every morning. Subscribe below

* indicates required
Uhuru Kenyatta Kenya Defence Forces Westgate Mall Nairobi JKIA