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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: Service / Installation Engineer - South East England

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful Service Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most