/ 23 September 2013

Kenya: South African killed in al-Shabab shooting

An image grab taken from AFP TV shows two children and a woman taking cover behind a bar inside the Westgate shopping mall.
An image grab taken from AFP TV shows two children and a woman taking cover behind a bar inside the Westgate shopping mall. (AFP)

The department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) confirmed on Sunday that a South African man from Cape Town was killed in the al-Shabab shooting in Kenya.

Sixty-eight people were confirmed dead and 175 injured in an attack by Somali Islamist militants on Nairobi shopping mall Westgate that started on Saturday. Nearly 24 hours after the attack began, 10 to 15 gunmen remained holed up inside the mall with an unknown number of hostages. 

According to Dirco spokesperson Clayson Manyela, "the family has been notified and consular services rendered".

The South African had been in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, for business. Family and friends found out about his death on Sunday afternoon and are said to be deeply shocked, according to family spokesperson Dave Meldrum.

The South African High Commission to Kenya also confirmed that a South African couple and their teenage son were rescued at midday on Sunday at the Westgate Mall. The South African Embassy staff in Nairobi is said to be on standby to assist South Africans should they require it.

Kenya's military launched a major operation at the mall and said it had rescued "most" of the hostages being held captive by the al-Qaeda-linked militants.

At daybreak on Monday, however, about five minutes of sustained gunfire could be heard being fired out of the mall, a clear indication that at least one gunman was still free and that the standoff continued. And hours after Kenya's officials said most hostages had been released, no further updates were released by authorities.

Meanwhile, world police body Interpol said it could provide Kenya's police with specialist forensics officers to help them investigate the attack.

"This deadly incident … reminds us all how much harm a handful of heavily-armed, hateful and bloodthirsty terrorists can cause in any country," Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said.

Reuters reported that Israeli advisors are helping Kenya with negotiating a strategy to end the mall siege.

An Israeli senior defense official said there were no Israeli forces participating in an assault, but said it was possible that Israeli advisers were providing assistance. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a classified military issue, would not elaborate. Israel has close ties to Kenya going back many years.

In recent years, Israel has identified East Africa as an area of strategic interest and stepped up ties with Kenya and other neighboring countries, due to shared threats posed by al-Qaeda and other extremist elements. In 2002, militants bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel near Mombasa, killing 13 people, and tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time.

Meanwhile, the Nairobi Hospital was reported to have run out of blood bags, the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre said. This comes despite queues at blood banks to provide the necessary life-saving supplies.

Somalia’s Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility and said the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into Somalia.

Several witnesses said that the al-Qaeda-linked gunmen asked the victims they had cornered if they were Muslim, those who answered yes were free to go while non-Muslims were said to be taken hostage.

"For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land," the militia said in one tweet. The rebels threatened more attacks.

Al-Shabab said on its suspended Twitter account that Kenya's security officials were trying to open negotiations. However, "there will be no negotiations whatsoever."

On Monday, the Associated Press released a list of victims in the attack. The dead include Africans, Europeans, Asians and North Americans.

Here are details about some of the victims:

South Africa
One South African citizen was killed, according to Dirco.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta's nephew and nephew's fiancee are among the dead. His sister was evacuated from the mall.

Two Indians, 8-year-old Parmashu Jain and 40-year-old Sridhar Natarajan, were killed, and four others were wounded in the attack, an external affairs ministry spokesperson said.

At least three UK nationals were killed in the attack, according to the foreign office, which warned the number of such fatalities is "likely to rise as further information becomes available."

Two French women were killed, France's President Francois Hollande said.

Two Canadians, including a diplomat, died in the attack, according to Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He paid tribute to the victims and noted the loss of diplomat Annemarie Desloges, who served in Canada's High Commission to Kenya as a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency. Her spouse Robert Munk was wounded in the attack, but has since been released from the hospital, the Canadian Press reported.

Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor died after being injured in the attack, the West African country's presidential office said. In addition to his writings, Awoonor was a professor and served as an ambassador in Brazil, Cuba and at the UN

The Netherlands
A 3​3-year-old Dutch woman died in the attack and seven other Dutch citizens who were in the mall escaped unharmed, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said. The victim's identity wasn't immediately released.

A 38-year-old Chinese woman with the surname Zhou who worked in the real estate industry was killed in the attack, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. Her son was injured in the attack and was in stable condition in a hospital, according to the Chinese Embassy in Kenya.

Ruhila Adatia-Sood, wife of Ketan Sood, a foreign service national working for the US agency for international evelopment in Nairobi was killed, US-Aid said in a press statement. She was a popular radio and TV personality in Kenya. Five American citizens were injured, US officials said.

New Zealand
Andrew McLaren (34) a New Zealander who manages a factory in Kenya for the avocado oil company Olivado, was wounded in the attack, the New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs confirmed. He was hospitalised in stable condition.

A dual Australian-British citizen was killed, Australia's department of foreign affairs and trade said. It was not clear whether this victim was included among the Britons killed.– Additional reporting by Sapa-AP