3 Days Of Mourning Declared For Mall Siege Victims In Kenya
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta says the siege on an upscale Nairobi shopping mall has ended.
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PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA: Ladies and gentlemen, as I had vowed earlier, we have shamed and defeated our attackers. That part of our task has been completed by our multi-agency security team.
INSKEEP: Militants attacked shoppers in that mall on Saturday. At least 67 people were killed, and dozens are still missing. The fight did not end until after three floors of the mall collapsed. The Kenyan government says it killed five terrorists and arrested 11 suspects. Let's find out now what it's felt like to live in Nairobi these last few days. NPR's Gregory Warner reports.
GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: By the second morning of the attack, a handwritten list of names was pinned to a bulletin board in the parking lot of the local hospital. It said simply: list of dead. Next to the board, I met a Somali woman, head covered by hijab, and her cousin in a checkered sport coat. They pointed out all the Muslim names on the list.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hadir Mugal.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Muhammad.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The one on top.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Here. There's so many Muslims.
WARNER: Giving only her last name, Adam, the woman said that she'd come to collect the body of her cousin, Yasmin Hersi, a Somali-born Muslim who left Mogadishu fleeing al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked extremists who claimed responsibility for the mall attack. She said her cousin had been making a new life in Kenya. He'd just gotten married, and was looking forward to learning Swahili.
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WARNER: The next day, as police helicopters continued to swirl overhead, survivors took refuge in a nearby trauma center, where Iowa-born psychologist Ilya Yacevich directed a team of counselors. Some witnesses told her they'd been in the movie theater in the mall when the attack began. On the marquee was the Will Smith sci-fi flick "After Earth."
ILYA YACEVICH: For some of them, they weren't notified that this was happening, so they were in the movie theaters and watching the movie while these things were happening in the rest of the mall. So when they exited the movie theater...
WARNER: That's when they saw the dead bodies and heard gunfire.
YACEVICH: It's like the movie hasn't ended.
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WARNER: Cellphone videos - this one was published in the British Daily Mail - showed the massive scale of the surprise attack launched on a Saturday lunch hour, when more than a thousand people, many families with children, were inside. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed rumors that Westerners were among the attackers.
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KENYATTA: 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.
WARNER: An FBI official reached by NPR urged caution about the presence of U.S. citizens among the terrorists before anyone's taken fingerprints or DNA. Manish Shah is the director of the other mall in Nairobi most popular with foreigners, the Village Market, near the U.S. embassy.
MANISH SHAH: That makes me scared as to, you know, at what level of protection do we give our shoppers.
WARNER: He says he woke up to a new Nairobi, feeling that the government was ill-equipped to handle the terrorist threat.
SHAH: America has not been able to handle al-Qaida, and with that in mind, who are we when it comes to situations like this?
WARNER: U.S. counterterrorism officials told NPR that some of the terrorists who launched this attack might have changed clothes and escaped with the fleeing shoppers. Gregory Warner, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.