The Kenyan government has in the past few minutes all but confirmed that the siege situation at the Westgate Mall is now over, with all the terrorists dead – while at least 10 suspects are in custody – and that security forces on site are now carrying out a final sweep of the entire building complex to establish if anyone who may have been in deep hiding can still be found, as well as to ascertain that no booby traps were left by the terrorists.
There has been intense speculation about the nationalities of the attackers, thought to be as many as 15 who stormed the mall last Saturday around 11:00 a.m. but the arrests elsewhere would also point to accomplices who may have worked with the terrorists from outside the mall.
What has become clear is that personnel from the UK’s Metropolitan Police were on site, likely from their anti-terrorism unit, but also from Israel and the United States as Kenya has in the past cooperated closely with both countries on security issues.
The official number of dead confirmed by Kenyan government sources presently stands at 62 with over 175 injured but this figure could increase on both counts now that the hostage situation is finally over and figures can be updated. A number of foreign nationals were killed alongside scores of Kenyans, among them a member of the Canadian Embassy in Nairobi, with the UK confirming too that at least 4 of their nationals are among those who died.
Wire services and mainstream media will certainly now be in a position to give further updates in coming hours and days, while Kenya is taking stock of how this will affect the country.
Deputy President William Ruto flew back into the country from his trial at the Hague yesterday, after finally obtaining permission from the judges for an adjournment, something the prosecution appears to have objected to and appealed, mindboggling in the face of what has been going on in Kenya and lending further credence of bias and a personal vendetta perpetrated from the days of the former Chief Prosecutor Ocampo to the present office holder Bensouda.
‘We will be monitoring the reaction now from Western countries about how they handle this situation. If they slap us with anti-travel advisories they must explain how we in Kenya, who joined the war on terror when our troops went into Somali in September 2011, on one side are an applauded ally and on the other should be punished with advisories which damage our mainstay service industry, tourism.
Those who visited our beaches and were on safari during these calamitous days can confirm that they were all safe. The Westgate attack was the work of what now appears to be a well-coordinated international group of terrorists which can happen tomorrow in a different corner of the world. It does not mean that Kenya suddenly is no longer safe to visit. I do not want to recall all the incidents in other countries, your own memory will be fresh on those but it goes to show that it is almost impossible to prevent such attacks. Al Qaida is a global threat and their local off spring everywhere in Africa and Asia need a global response. All nations are under threat from the big global powers to the smallest countries. Only together can the world rise to this challenge and fight them. Today it was Kenya, tomorrow it will be another country. Those who stood by us we will also stand by in their hour of need. Thank you for telling the world that Kenya is open for business, that conferences are going on, that our beach resorts have available beds and our safari lodges are ready to welcome our foreign guests’ said a regular Nairobi based source when discussing the issue on phone a few minutes ago, probably expressing the sentiments of the entire tourism industry. Formal statements from Kenya’s ministry overseeing tourism, the Kenya Tourism Board and leading tourism trade associations are expected to come in during the morning hours and will be given a platform here too, to reassure potential visitors to the country.
In closing, hat off to the Kenyan security forces who in a multi-agency operation fought and defeated the terrorists, their international allies deployed on site and foremost the Kenyan people who stood together in near unprecedented solidarity and unity. Kenyans were raising over 40 million Kenya Shillings in the space of two days for the victims of the terror attack and donated blood via the Kenya Red Cross to a point that the blood reserve bank was almost unable to process all the donors.
In one of Kenya’s darkest hours her finest qualities of nationhood showed the spirit of Harambee once again, uniting Kenyans from all walks of life and from all political inclinations. THAT outcome defeated the intent of the terrorists, leaving Kenya stronger, rising from the calamity with a renewed spirit.