by MEGAN ROMANCZUK Section Editor
A peaceful day at the Westgate mall turned into a deadly massacre on Saturday, September 21. As many as 15 al-Qaeda linked gunmen stormed the mall, leaving 61 people dead, more than 205 people injured, and 49 still missing.
The attackers entered the building from the front entrance, and started to shoot and throw grenades at the innocent shoppers. The gunmen were dressed in all black attire with masks and speaking in a foreign language, either Arabic or Somali.
Approximately an hour into the attack, security forces entered the building, which began a shooting battle between the police and the attackers, some of who hid in the Nakumatt supermarket.
As nighttime approached, Kenyan police helicopters hovered the mall while soldiers in flak jackets and helmets jogged single file into the mall, ready to attack. Ambulances lined the mall as the gunshots and explosions continued throughout the night. Several Kenyan soldiers were later brought out with gunshot wounds.
Security forces launched a renewed assault and some interior floors, along with a car parking deck, collapsed. By the evening, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the siege to be over with a death toll of 61 civilians and six security officers.
In the attack, four Americans were believed to be injured. Two Canadians, one of them a diplomat based in Nairobi, and two French citizens were killed during the terrorist attack.
“It’s a shame that innocent adults or children got their lives taken from them at a place where most people feel safe. It’s sickening to see people harming others because of the government rather then trying to solve the problems in a mature way,” said junior Nicole Cohen.
An Islamist militant group in Somalia, the Shabab, took responsibility for the attack saying it was revenge for Kenya’s military operations that began nearly two years ago.
In 2011, Kenya sent thousands of troops into Somalia to chase the Shabab away from its borders. They then kept those troops there as part of a larger African Union mission to pacify Somalia.
This was not the first time the Shabab have attacked Kenya, but this was their boldest attempt yet. Previously, they had attacked churches in eastern Kenya, mosques in Nairobi, and government outposts along the Kenya-Somalia border.
Three years ago, the group also claimed credit for the bombings that killed more than 70 people in Uganda as crowds gathered to watch the World Cup.
“It seems as if Kenyan forces were unable to cope with the situation, which is why it lasted four days and so many civilians were killed,” said by senior Stephanie Holtje.
On September 25, Kenya began an official three-day period of mourning to mark one of the worst tragedies in Kenyan history. The investigation continues as searches at the mall continue in an effort to locate the missing civilians.
The United States has provided FBI agents and forensic support to aid the investigation. Concern exists that several of the attackers escaped when shoppers were evacuated at various times during the siege.
What do you think the government should do to prevent future terrorist attacks against civilian targets?