Kenya shopping mall attack: ‘They threw a grenade at us. We are lucky to be alive’ - survivors tell their stories

 

Nairobi

A man, his arm bandaged, stands wearily outside Nairobi’s MP Shah Hospital, stealing a cigarette before he goes back to his wife, who has recently emerged from surgery to remove the multiple pieces of shrapnel lodged in her body.

Kadeer Mughal, 64, would normally have been at work, but Saturday was his birthday, and his wife urged him to go to the nearby Westgate mall for a celebratory lunch.

They were just looking for parking in the basement of the mall when they heard a loud explosion. His wife suspected a terror attack, and they immediately sought an exit, but found their way blocked by three of four cars, their occupants shot and dying.

“I told my wife to get out, and we hid behind the rear wheel of the car,” he recalls. “I don’t know how they [the militants] saw me, but they threw a grenade at the car, and it exploded under the engine. It threw my wife 10 feet away.”

People rushed to their aid, but when the shooting intensified, they fled. Alone, Mr Mughal dragged his wife, who was bleeding profusely through her white blouse, towards a store room, where a woman – he does not know her name – stemmed the bleeding in a move that he is sure prevented his wife from dying. 

They were rescued a short while later. “We are just so lucky to be alive,” Mr Mughal says. His wife, however, has a long road to recovery. Some bits of shrapnel will never be removed, so close are they to her spinal cord and vital organs.

“She is deeply traumatised,” he says. “She wakes up in the night shouting, ‘They are going to kill me!’” Her son, who has not slept for three days as he remained by his mother’s bedside, is baffled by what happened. “We are Muslims. I pray five times a day, I am very into Islam. But not like this,” he says.

It may be days before the full human cost is counted of Kenya’s worst terror attack since the bombing of the US consulate in 1998 that killed 213 people. Many of the victims – officially numbering 62 so far – are children, while at least three pregnant women have reportedly lost their lives.

Children had flocked to Westgate on Saturday, some participating in a cookery competition on the rooftop, others to play, others accompanying their parents to shop and dine.

Several Nairobi schools have been hit hard by the attack. A school catering mainly to the Asian community lost four children, while an international school lost two.

In a city where inequality between the prosperous and the poor remains the starkest in Africa, affluent and middle-class Kenyans have felt the attack most keenly. But many Kenyans who could never have hoped to shop there were among the first to die in the attack. They included nannies, cleaners, security staff and taxi drivers.

Two children under the age of six were waiting in the car park with their nanny when the shooting started. She flung herself on top of the two children to save them. The children had a miraculous escape, but their nanny was shot and killed.

Medics at one hospital alone said they knew of 13 children who were killed, with one doctor describing how he spent 40 futile minutes attempting to revive a child as his mother looked on, weeping and begging him to save the boy’s life.

Hélène Conway-Mouret, the French minister responsible for nationals abroad, told a French TV channel that a mother and daughter were “executed in the parking lot” of Westgate.

“As medics, we see a lot of trauma, accidents, but the shooting of women, and children of all ages, has been much more traumatic,” said Dr Harsh Khoda, head of A&E at MP Shah hospital, adding that more than 100 people had been admitted since the siege began on Saturday. “We have seen everything from minor shrapnel wounds to major gunshot wounds. It is still a blur.”

The tragedy has united a society normally polarised by tribal and racial differences. Kenyan Asians, who have often borne the brunt of resentment in Kenya, have helped lead the response to the tragedy with the provision of sustenance and counselling.

But some fear that when the immediacy of the tragedy recedes, the old differences will re-emerge. “When something like this happens, everyone comes together,” said one Kenyan Asian. “[But] all this is going to be forgotten. It will go back to ‘Asians this, Asians that’.”

Video: Police saves mother and her children

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Provisioning Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Provisioning Specialist is required to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Support Engineer is required to join a well-...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Administrator - Swedish Speaking

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum