Kenyan siege declared over – but questions remain
Were they all Somali? Was there a woman? Are all the terrorists and hostages dead? So many questions remain unanswered even as the Kenyan President declares the Westgate siege over.
The eyewitnesses I have spoken to all say the attackers were young men speaking Somali and Somali-accented Swahili. One woman, whom I won’t name because she fears reprisals, rushed to Westgate when she heard that her friend – a Muslim Somali like her – had been shot. From outside the mall, she kept calling his mobile, hoping against hope that the news would turn out to be untrue, that he would answer.
Eventually someone picked up the phone, but to her horror it was not her friend, but his killer.
“He said, ‘We don’t want him to go to the mortuary,'” she told me. “He’s here on third floor at the parking lot. We want you to go the ambulance and talk to those Yehuds..'”
In other words, the killer didn’t want the body of a Muslim – let alone a Somali Muslim – to be collected by the authorities, whom he referred to as “Yehud”, meaning Jews. It was impossible to go and pick up her friend’s body, so she informed the police, who – after some persuasion – got her to ring the number again.
The terrorist picked up again but in the middle of the conversation, he heard the police officers talking.
“I think he feared I was setting him up and he hung the phone up on me,” she said.
It was a clue, or a contact, that could have been vital but the police were unwilling to use it so she gave up. She made one last call. The killer shouted at her for failing to collect her friend’s body and said that now others had retrieved it and she would find it at the hospital.
“He was calm, she said. “He was only angry one time when he said I should have collected the body.”
She could scarcely believe who she was talking to.
“He’s the one who killed my brother,” she said. “I wanted to reach down that phone and grab him. It was really hurting.”
Fearing that she might come under suspicion for talking to the terrorists, she asked the mobile phone company to cut the line. It was a painful episode for her, and a missed opportunity for the Kenyan police, still struggling to identify the Westgate killers.
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