Rescued survivors of the Westgate Mall attack on Sunday continued with their tale of life in hell, in what has become Kenya’s worst terrorist attack since the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi.
Each of those rescued spoke of hiding in the basement, locking themselves in a room, praying all the time or frantically calling relatives to help.
Ms Cecile Ndwiga told journalists that she hid in the basement, which is also used as an alternative parking bay.
“I called my husband to ask the police to rescue me. I couldn’t just walk out (because) the shootout was all over,” she said, standing in one shoe, shaken, not knowing where the other was.
She kept praying, she said, because bullets were flying all over.
“I kept asking God to grant the police the strength to rescue me, she added.”
Another survivor who identified herself as Chepkurui told reporters she believed she was rescued because her phone did not go off early, she was able to make calls to relatives who in turn informed the police.
She narrated that, when the gunfire started, she ran and hid in her office on the first floor. Scared, she called her family at home. She was on the phone often until 11pm when she received a call from Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo.
“All along, I was terrified, but the police called and assured me that I would be safe,” she said, embracing her husband who had come to receive her.
“Mr Kimaiyo talked to me and assured me that they were coming to rescue me. I was assured all was well. God is able, if you don’t believe in God, believe in my God,” she said.
On a day when people were going about their businesses, shoppers buying their weekend fill, and children at a cooking festival on the rooftop, Mr Ben Mulwa remembers seeing gunmen “with long rifles.”
“We were driving to the parking bay on the rooftop, but the guards first stopped us for a security check, then we heard gunshots, we didn’t pay much attention because we thought police were chasing robbers or something,” Mr Mulwa who was shot in the right knee recounted.
“Then the shooting intensified, it got so bad we thought they were approaching us. I jumped out of the car and hid in some flowers. That is when four guys walked in, one of them had this ‘(Yasser) Arafat’ kind of covering on his head, but their faces were not covered,” he continued.
“They had very long rifles. One of them had a belt of ammunition around him. They shot into the security cubicle then started shooting randomly. I think they were targeting the security guards because I saw them pursuing quite a number of them. A guard who was lying next to me was shot in the head. He died instantly,” Mr Mulwa said.
Ms Warda Ahmed and her friend Grace Muli were headed to the mall for a Saturday morning shopping spree. She had a hitch withdrawing cash from her M-Pesa account so she stayed behind as Grace left for Westlands.
FEARED THE WORST
Speaking to the Nation at Peponi Road on Sunday, Warda said that her friend, who is a peer educator in Mombasa, could not be reached on phone throughout Saturday and they had began to fear for the worst.
Grace however called her at about 9am on Sunday saying she was safe with four other people in a room in the mall and were waiting to be rescued. The two friends talked for about 10 minutes but Grace’s phone appeared to have run out of power and they had not communicated since.
Another woman was rescued at around 1pm, bringing the number of those rescued by security agents to around 1000, by 2pm. She was too traumatised to speak as her relatives whisked her away.