If Malls Aren’t Safe, What Is?

images-2While many people expect the biggest hassle of malls to be waiting in long lines, that was not the case this past Saturday in Kenya. Between ten and fifteen terrorists took siege of Westgate Mall in the capital city of Nairobi, shooting people and taking hostages as they made their way from store to store. The Westgate Mall, an upscale shopping center, is a popular destination for rich businessmen and wealthy Kenyans. Many come who live on only a couple of dollars a day; some work in the grocery store and shops, while others only come to watch.

The first group of terrorists stormed in through the front entrance, throwing grenades and shooting rifles as they moved. The gunmen questioned individual’s faith, only releasing Muslims while targeting the others. They were very meticulous in separating the Muslims from those who did not share the same beliefs, besides when they sprayed bullets into crowds. A four year old non-Muslim boy was spared after telling one of the armed shooters, “You’re a very bad man”. At least sixty-seven civilians died, 175 remain injured, and sixty-two remain hospitalized. Among the deaths were six British citizens, two French nationals, two Indians, and two Canadians, including a diplomat.

It took four days for the Kenyan authorities to defeat the terrorists. Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, stated, “We confronted this evil without flinching, confronted our deep grief and pain, and conquered it”. The Kenya Red Cross reported sixty-five people have still not been found. Three floors of the mall collapsed, caused by fires and explosions, trapping bodies underneath. Janet Mwikali lingered outside the mall holding her granddaughter on Monday, waiting for any word about her husband who worked in the mall’s grocery store who was among the missing. “I have hope, and I pray. He’s the love of my life,” she said.

images-1The siege was the bloodiest attack by terrorists in Kenya since 1998, when the U.S. embassy in Nairobi was bombed. The terrorists were believed to be a part of the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terror group. The group has threatened Kenya since 2011, when Kenyan soldiers stopped the action of al-Qaida-linked militants. The ethnicities of the attackers is another important part in determining the reason behind the attacks. There were reports of several Americans and a British woman among the group of shooters, but this could not be confirmed. A U.S. connection on intelligence reports has been looked into, but the solidarity of this was looking less likely. There is also not enough evidence to prove that the woman in the group was in fact Samantha Lewthwaite, born in Britain, before the forensic examiner has looked at her body. Kenya has been a strong component to the U.S. in working against Islamist terrorism. This attack is thought to have been planned well in advance, and  members had probably searched out the mall to get a feel. According to CNN, an email was received from the al-Shabab, which stated, “any part of the Kenyan territory is a legitimate target. … Kenya should be held responsible for the loss of life.”

When I heard about this story on the news it really hit me. People go to malls all the time, and it could happen anywhere in the world. So many innocent people were killed or injured that day just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many were slaughtered because they did not share the same faith at the terrorists, something that is the right of every human being. Although this is in a foreign country and the Constitution has no meaning outside of the United States, people are persecuted here as well for their beliefs, even with the First Amendment. There were even reports of Americans being a part of the gunmen. If we cannot be safe in upscale centers full of high security, can we ever feel like we are not in a possibly dangerous situation? It is almost unimaginable to think about being in this situation and not knowing how quickly the outcome could change. The government cannot always stop attacks like these, which is a terrifying thought. People lost innocent loved ones because of an action made by the government that angered a group of people. While it will be a long recovery process for the families who lost loved ones, the people of Kenya have already banded together to help each other through this tragedy. They have  donated blood and started raising money to contribute to the victims. According to Fox News, Kenyatta states, “Our attackers wished to destroy the essential character of our society. They failed. Kenya endured. Kenya endures.”

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