|INSET: Monday’s Standard Newspaper’s front page photo of Baby Satrin Osinya, with bloodied top, holding onto his crying brother Moses Gift at Coast General Hospital, Mombasa, last Sunday. They were among victims of the Likoni church attack. We later on learnt that he had a bullet in his head as per this X-Ray. [PHOTOS: MAARUFU MOHAMMED/STANDARD]|
By BENARD SANGA
MOMBASA, KENYA: The terrorist bullet that killed Baby Satrin Osinya’s mother in church and spared him — just two months to his first birthday — is lodged dangerously in his head. Yes, doctors believe one of the bullets that ended his mother’s life, while she was shielding him, exited her body and buried itself in his head. Monday night, two days after the terrorists’ gun attack inside a Likoni church, doctors were still going through scans and x-rays of Baby Satrin’s head, trying to determine if the bullet could be surgically removed without inflicting more damage or even risking his young life.
The boy’s incessant cries in hospital, the helplessness of his father, and the shock and tears of the baby’s 13-year-old brother Master Moses Gift, brought to Kenyans the actual horror of terrorist networks and their brutality, little respect for life, even for the little ones.
When The Standard, in its Monday issue, carried the picture of the baby with his top drenched in his blood and clinging onto his teary brother, all it seemed was that the bullet had either grazed his scalp, or some flying object had hit him.
Following the shooting inside the church by hooded gunmen, believed to have been five in number, six people have so far died from the barefaced and misplaced anger of the killers.
Doctors were also debating whether or not to airlift Baby Satrin to Nairobi for specialised treatment, or have specialists flown to Mombasa to attend to him.
It is believed the decision could have been delayed until it was determined whether it would be safe to fly him, given the conditions of cabin pressure inflight, and disturbance from the bumpy nature of travel by road.
Doctors and nurses told The Standard team that accessed the x-ray pictures showing where the bullet is lodged, that Baby Satrin was in great pain at the Coast General Hospital.
“The young boy has not slept the whole night because of pain and has been conscious throughout,” said a nurse.
As we went to press the victim had been moved to the better equipped Mombasa Hospital.
Monday the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of AP wing, Mr Simon Arachi said Sunday’s incident could have been “an act of terrorism”, as the German Embassy in Nairobi described the killings as “an act of violent extremism”.
However no group had claimed responsibility although extremist bloggers hailed the violence as justified. However, witnesses reported that the gunmen proclaimed Allahu Akbar, suggesting they were radicalised Islamists.
A pastor at the church told Arachi when he toured the scene that he informed police of an impending attack which was not investigated.
Baby Satrin who has become the most poignant symbol of Sunday’s brutality, and will celebrate his birthday on May 14, has cried without eating since admission on Sunday evening despite reuniting with his father Benson Osinya, 42, a native of Busia on Sunday night.
Distraught and dazed with fright, the father has been crying helplessly — mourning the sudden loss of his wife and the plight of his young boy.
Doctors attending to Baby Satrin say the infant was struck in the right side of the head, but indicated that they had managed to stop the bleeding while the child was still conscious, but in great pain and sleepless.
And the doctors disclosed that the death toll has risen to six, including one victim who died on the operation table as surgeons struggled to remove bullets in his chest cavity.
The Coast General Hospital’s chief administrator Dr Bernard Mwero told The Standard all the victims of the violence had multiple gunshot injuries to the chest.
Father and son reunited on Sunday evening after he was informed by a local pastor of the tragedy. Mr Osinya told The Standard that he received the news in a most unsettling way: “I was told that all members of my family had been killed, and when I called the pastor, she only told me to go to Coast General Hospital.”
He added: “I rushed to the hospital and was informed that my wife died on the spot and my son had a bullet in his head.”
The father is a casual labourer and spoke in tears.
He survived the massacre only because he had skipped church to work.
“The only sin my wife committed was to go to church to worship God,” he said as he collapsed into tears with his son weeping relentlessly.
Baby Satrin’s mother, Veronica Atieno Ouma, who was born in Budimbidi village, Busia County, perished in the attack inside Joy Jesus Church.
Survivors of the attack told The Standard Veronica perished while trying to shield her fourth-born son from the attackers with her body.
She was shot several times in the back, according to hospital reports, and died on the spot.
Mr Osinya described his 38-year-old deceased wife, a groceries seller as the “breadwinner of the family” whom he married in 1990. They have four children.
“That Sunday morning my wife woke up at 4am and went to Kongowea market to fetch vegetables she was to sell after the church service,” Mr Osinya, who hails from Namboboto village in Funyula recalled.
Dr Mwero told The Standard “he (the boy) will require a major operation which we need to plan for well. We are trying to decide whether we should airlift him to Nairobi or bring him a neurosurgeon. We have to open the skull and operate on the brain,” he said.
The doctor underlined the nature of Baby Satrin’s injury and said he expected surgery to be carried out, but cautioned that “a small mistake my lead to the boy developing epilepsy, trauma or even death.”
Said the doctor: “We believe that bullet permeated through the mother’s chest as she shielded the boy. The mother died of multiple gunshot wounds and though the boy has stopped bleeding, he is in a lot of pain.”
Mwero said nine victims were discharged yesterday, and six are still admitted in the institution.
Monday Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia visited the victims and announced the Government would fly in specialists to attend to the injured especially the baby.
“We should make the decision as fast as possible on what to do about the condition of the baby. If it is airlifting him to Nairobi it should be done immediately,” Macharia said.
Meanwhile police in Mombasa said 59 suspects were detained following the attack on the church. Reports show about 100 suspects were rounded up on Sunday night during a massive operation by various police contingents.
“We have gathered good leads and by the end of the day we will be able to know the motive of the attackers. It is early to say whether it was a terror attack or a normal criminal activity,” said Arachi.
Pastor Willis Omondi of the targeted church claimed gangs had previously attacked the prayer house eight times.