The terror unleashed in Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall started on Saturday afternoon, with gunshots shattering the buzz of the popular weekend meeting spot. The ensuing hostage crisis left at least 61 civilians dead and a further 175 people wounded. With the stand-off now over, and all the attackers now reportedly dead or captured, increasing numbers of survivors are sharing stories of luck, courage and resourcefulness. Below are four of these stories.
1. The American Whose Life Was Saved By Being On The Ground Floor
It was shortly after midday Saturday when Bendita Malakia, from Elizabeth City in North Carolina, arrived at the mall to have lunch with a friend, reported WAVY-TV. Malakia, who moved to Nairobi in July to work with a finance company, was halfway through lunch on the mall’s terrace when gunmen stormed the area, throwing what she believes were hand grenades and firing rounds from assault rifles.
“We stood up and started to run and we heard machine guns,” Malakia told WAVY-TV. “Then we started to run and there was a second explosion, which knocked us on the ground.”
Malakia and her friend then fled to a store where dozens of other people had taken refuge where, four hours later, they were rescued by security forces. Malakia believes she was “completely lucky” because she was on the ground floor when the assault began and therefore easily accessible to rescuers, WAVY-TV reported.
2. The Man Whose Forehead Was Grazed By A Bullet
Ben Mulwa told Sky News that he had just gotten out of his car after arriving at Westgate to have lunch with a friend. The young man described hearing intense rounds of gunfire and then, unsure as to where it was coming from, ran from his vehicle into the mall. That was when he saw four men armed with rifles.
“Everything happened so fast,” he said, speaking to Sky News. “There was a security guard who came to seek safety right next to where I was and he was the first to be shot dead – I remember they shot him right through the head. And before I could come to terms with that, that’s when I saw a second gunman pointing a gun in my direction. I think I almost passed out for a couple of seconds. A bullet grazed over my forehead – how he was able to miss me – and he was only three or four meters away from me – is a miracle somehow.”
Mulwa was also shot in the knee and hid in a flowerbed until he was rescued.
3. The Welsh Woman Who Escaped Pelting Bullets
Lynsey Khatau, a Welsh woman who divides her time between South Wales and Nairobi, was shopping with her husband Max and four-year-old son Caiz before Saturday’s attack, reports Wales Online. The 23-year-old described how they heard a grenade go off, followed by about 20 rounds being fired in less than a minute.
“We came out – I just ran, we just ran out,” recounted Khatau according to Wales Online. “We were going to die – that was the only thing I was thinking, we’re going to die. There were people just falling everywhere. It was really horrific.”
Speaking to Wales Online on Tuesday, Khatau’s mother – Sue Mathias – explained that a gunman had targeted her daughter but missed and shot a man behind her instead. “They were just shooting at whoever was in their way,” she said. “If that man had not been running behind her, they could have shot her instead.”
4. The South African Teen Who Played Dead To Survive The Attack
Yach was in a burger restaurant with his mother and sister when a huge explosion tore through the room. “We just dropped to the floor under the table, put our heads down and curled up for a good 20 or 30 minutes,” Yach said according to the BBC.
He described what happened when they first saw the terrorists: “I said to my mum, ‘It’s a scary thought but just play dead’. So we did that but I kept an eye open to see what was going on and if they were coming into the restaurant.”
He added: “We were there for a good two and a half hours under the table and about halfway into it, the police arrived with the army and they started heading up the steps of the main entrance. There was a bit of a gun battle going on whilst we were still on the floor.”
Yach was eventually rescued along with his mother and sister. “My dad was incredibly happy to see us,” he told the BBC.