Westgate Mall in Kenya had been known as a place that was frequented by people of all kinds, races and religion. The mall had food courts and a supermarket that made it the ideal place for families to come and spend some time together doing shopping and thereafter perhaps grab a bite. Saturday the 21 of September 2013 was just any other day for a great deal of people and being on a weekend the venue was pretty well packed. At around 12:30 PM things changed and the usually calm and serene place was marred by mayhem and stampede, and people scampering for safety. Westgate was under Al-shabaab Attack!
Courtesy of the videos that were taken by the CCTV cameras that had been installed, those that did not get to witness what happened on the fateful day are now able to get the details of what happened as well as the confusing demeanor of the men behind the AK-47 rifles that were shooting everyone without mercy and a couple of minutes later were giving children chocolate bars and making baby faces. HBO gives you a tour of what happened in Westgate uncut and as it happened.
The attack started at 12:30 and the attackers started with a grenade. The shrapnel from the initial attack injured a lot of people especially those that were in the parking lot. They made their way into the mall with their majestic entrance characterized by the loud bangs of ammunition forcing men, women and children to hide in practically any place that could offer cover. Meat counters and display tables suddenly had a new task which was to provide cover.
The gunmen shot and killed anyone they came across without any remorse whatsoever and this did not stop in the mall. They went to the roof where there was a children’s cooking competition and sprayed bullets on the participants as well as their parents and other spectators killing a great number of them. The attack was periodically characterized by absurd silence and corking of guns as the assailants reloaded and then continued with their attack.
After they could not find any people walking or running for safety hazily, they started seeking them out. However, at this point, they had changed their tactic and they would let women, children and those that were Muslims go. They went as far as giving some of the children chocolate bars and were heard apologizing frequently to the children which was very absurd given that they had taken the decision to kill themselves and seemed to be really enjoying it.
According the documentary, the assailants were in constant communication with their leaders in Somalia and at some point asked where they could get some scratch cards. One of the cashiers stood up to help them and pointed out to the direction of the tills where the scratch cards were. The gun man then asked her if she was a Kenyan and a Christian to which she affirmed. Unfortunately the gunman shot her once in the chest and she became the last victim to die at Westgate 3 hours and 21 minutes after the attack had began and her killing took place at exactly 15:51.
When the dust settled down a bit, the police and the ambulances arrived 90 minutes after the attack had started, some of the civilians that had licensed guns took it up on themselves to help those that were hiding in all the nooks and crannies of the mall and their efforts saw hundreds of people saved in the process. In total, 61 people died in the attack and among them were 3 pregnant women and 12 children. As the police were coming in, the assailant were locked in a room where they seemed to be praying and once it had been confirmed that there were no more people trapped, the military fired a high explosive shell that killed all the four attackers. Intelligence released later identified that the youngest of the attackers was 19 years old and the oldest just 23 years old.