Ask anyone lucky to survive the Westgate attack that took place on September 21, 2013 and they would be hesitated to respond, triggering unwanted memories of that day. Not for former K24 anchor Shiksha Arora though, who recalled her experience in one of the country’s darkest moments.
In her tweet shared on Monday, September 21, Shiksha revealed her horrifying experience in the heat of the moment when armed terrorists stormed the facility and left 67 people dead.
7 years ago my life changed forever.
I still carry the sounds, smells and images that remain from the #WestgateAttack. I remember calling my parents amidst the chaos telling them I love them. Remembering all my loved ones who weren’t as lucky as I was to be called survivors❤️
— Shiksha Arora (@shikshaarora_) September 21, 2020
“Seven years ago my life changed forever.
I still carry the sounds, smells and images that remain from the Westgate Attack. I remember calling my parents amidst the chaos & trauma telling them that I was in the middle of a terrorist attack and if I don’t make it out, I loved them.” she wrote on her post.
She whispered a prayer to all her loved ones who weren’t as lucky as she was to survive the attack that claimed the life of radio presenter Ruhila Adatia Sood.
Speaking exclusively to 254news.co.ke, Shiksha divulged into the moments that preceded before and moments during the attack.
“I was at an East FM event with a lot of guests when all of a sudden we heard a loud bang. Many thought it was a tire burst of the sort.” she began.
She further disclosed of a second bang followed by a person close to where they were advising them to remain alert as they knew something was amiss.
Moments later, the armed terrorists gate crashed the facility through the main entrance, shooting at innocent shoppers within the mall as they made their way towards the rooftop parking lot, where the event was at the time.
They sprayed their bullets at the event guests and sent many, including Shiksha, hurtling for cover.
“We pleaded with the terrorists to spare us but they were like “why should we? You didn’t spare our children”. They had AK-47 rifles and grenades and looked fearless, wearing scarves on their heads” she continued.
Shiksha would become the lucky survivor later on as a grenade thrown 200 metres from her hiding position did not detonate.
“It was at that part that I called my mother in the chaos and telling them that I loved them, and this was it for me” she confessed.
Two hours since the attack began, she alongside other survivors were led out of the premises by a British soldier. Initially they were hesitant to follow him as they were accustomed to Kenya Defence Forces soldiers but the soldier eventually evacuated them.
Shiksha disclosed that she lost around 12 people she knew that day, including Ruhila.
Militants suspected to be Al-Shabaab stormed the facility and shot indiscriminately at innocent shoppers. The terrorist group claimed responsibility of the attack.
Among those who died included a senior city lawyer Peter Zimani who was shot dead as he was attending to his client at the mall.
The attack exposed the soft underbelly of Kenya’s security and ignited claims of a looting spree by the Kenya Defence Forces and the ridiculous explanations given by the then Interior CS Joseph ole Lenku.
Kenyans were unsatisfied with the information shared by the government even after the sharp-witted Cyrus Oguna (then KDF spokesman) took over, forcing President Uhuru Kenyatta to order the formation of a commission of inquiry.
Four of the suspects who carried out the Westgate attack that day were killed in the four-day standoff.
They were identified as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr through a CCTV footage.
The terror group waged terrorist attacks on Kenya, during the tenure of former President Mwai Kibaki, who sent troops to Somalia to fight the militants in 2011.
Kenya invaded Somalia after a series of cross-border raids by the militant group that led to abductions of tourists along the Kenyan coast.
A quick tour of the mall after its reopening a year later reveals security had since been doubled, with X-Ray checks at the main entrance coupled with security guards alongside guard dogs which check the vehicles coming into the mall.
The mall has since grown to be better than its original shade, with a swath of new shops and eateries and a return of others including Artcaffe and Ashley’s Beauty Centre.
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