July 14, 2015
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Nairobi’s Westgate Mall is to re-open Saturday, nearly two years after it was attacked by Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels who killed at least 67 people, Kenyan officials said Tuesday.
The mall has been extensively refurbished since the devastating four-day siege. The violence erupted on Sept. 21, 2013 when four Islamic militants entered the mall and fired on shoppers. Kenyan police and army responded hours later and the gunmen held the building for four days. The four attackers are believed to have died from smoke inhalation from a fire that collapsed part of the roof. The mall was left in shambles, with bullet-scarred walls, shattered windows, flooded floors and bloodstains. Kenyan army soldiers were also accused of looting shops.
Kenya has rebounded from the violence, said Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, who toured the mall on Tuesday. “The indomitable Kenyan spirit prevailed, they didn’t break our spirit,” Kidero said. Every business that had a shop in the mall is back, Kidero said.
Shoppers should turn out Saturday for the mall’s re-opening, said Kidero. Nairobi is safe and U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit is testament to Kenya’s security, he said. The U.S. State Department this week issued a travel warning to its citizens that extremists could target the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi later this month, which will be attended by Obama.
One of those returning to the mall will be Charlse Kimondo, a worker at the Nakumatt Supermarket in the mall. On the day of the attack he was in a storeroom when he heard gunshots and screams. He escaped but was shocked by the bloodbath. Counselling sessions helped him get over the ordeal and return to work.
Al-Shabab said the Westgate attack was in retaliation for Kenya sending troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the Islamic extremist rebels.