Don Juma saw three cars pull up outside the shopping mall, and 10 attackers soon jumped out. They wore black masks and military-style uniforms, while carrying automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition belts around their waists. They ran towards crowded parts of the bustling mall before quickly opening fire on shoppers, he said.
“They were well-trained – they knew what they were doing. They just started shooting, without saying anything. They were shooting anyone. It was terrible, very terrible,” said Mr. Juma, a 27-year-old taxi driver who was in the Nairobi shopping mall when the attack began. “I’ve never gone through such a thing in my life. It was like a movie.”
During the brazen attack Saturday in Kenya, Mr. Juma saw many people shot, including a man who was shot in the neck. “He died on the spot,” Mr. Juma said.
Mr. Juma hid on the floor behind a pillar, and then managed to escape from the mall. “I was lucky.”
According to the Kenyan Red Cross the attack has now left at least 68 dead, including two Canadians.
Kenyan’s military said late Sunday it had rescued “most” of the remaining hostages after launching a major operation to end the two-day standoff.
The dead included citizens from Kenya, Britain, France, South Africa, Ghana, the Netherlands, the United States, China and Australia.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canadians’ thoughts are with all the victims.
“The government of Canada wants to condemn, as strongly as we possibly can, this cowardly act that has taken place against many innocent people,” he said at an event in Toronto.
“We will continue to work with our partners internationally to do everything we can to fight terrorism.”
Canada’s foreign service is mourning the loss of one of its own, after diplomat Annemarie Desloges was confirmed among the two fatalities.
Vancouver businessman Naguib Damji was also killed in the attack. Mr. Damji, a married 59-year-old father of three, travelled frequently between Canada and Kenya, said family friend Shakeela Begum.
Ms. Begum said the family had yet to confirm exactly how Mr. Damji died though they had heard he may have died from a gunshot wound.
She said his family is in shock and is hoping for a funeral in B.C.next weekend. “He was a great person, a very happy go lucky person.”
Ms. Desloges, 29, had worked with the Canadian government since 2008, and had been stationed in Kenya for two years working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada as well as the Canada Border Services Agency. Her husband Robert Munk, a Dutch citizen and Canadian permanent resident, was also said to have been injured in the attack.
“We offer our deepest condolences to Annemarie's husband Robert, family, friends, and colleagues as they grieve this senseless tragedy. This is a terrible wound to the greater foreign service community, and she will be missed dearly,” the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers' statement said.
Mr. Baird extended his condolences to Ms. Desloges’ family. “We have no doubt that Annemarie touched the lives of many, and it is for that, that she will always be remembered,” he said in a written statement.
Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary said early Sunday that in addition to the dead, at least 175 have been wounded.
Ottawa says it will fully support any investigation into whether Canadian citizens were involved in the weekend’s bloody attack against a shopping mall in Kenya.
Two Twitter accounts claiming to be linked to al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-affiliated movement whose militants stormed Nairobi’s Westgate mall, said Sunday that the terrorist team included a number of Americans and Europeans and a 24-year-old man from Ontario.
“We are aware of the reports but do not comment on operational matters of national security,” Rick Roth, Mr. Baird’s director of communications, said in an e-mailed statement. “Our government will provide its full support to any investigation of a terrorist act that does or may include Canadian citizens. Terrorists, regardless of their citizenship, must be punished for their cowardice and depravity.”
There were conflicting media accounts over the authenticity of the two Twitter accounts, one in Arabic and one in English, which was quickly suspended. CNN said “a source within al-Shabaab” had confirmed the Twitter posts, while journalists with The Associated Press and al Jazeera said their al-Shabaab sources told them the accounts and names were fake.
As the attack began shortly after noon Saturday, the al-Qaeda-linked gunmen asked the victims they had cornered if they were Muslim. Those who answered yes were free to go, several witnesses said. The non-Muslims were not.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into Somalia.
The mall’s ownership is Israeli, and security experts have long said the structure made an attractive terrorist target.
With reports from Associated Press and The Canadian Press