Conflict & Justice

Nairobi Reels as Militant Shopping Mall Siege Continues

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Credit:

Noor Khamis/Reuters

Thick smoke poured from Nairobi's besieged Westgate mall, three days after a raid by Somalia's al- Shabaab militia.

Nairobi residents remained on edge as the assault by the Islamic militants called al-Shabab continued at a luxury Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

Kenyan Laura Walubengo, a web editor with DSTV online in Nairobi watched the scene unfold at the mall.

"There was a lot of drama today, a lot of explosions in the morning, a lot of gunshots as well and helicopters hovering all over the place," Walubengo said.

Smoke billowed from the mall in the afternoon. Kenyan authorities said the fires were intentionally set by militants in order to create a diversion that would allow them to escape.

Walubengo said many Nairobi residents stayed home from work today, but sought out one another's company. The ethnic divides in Nairobi are well known. And so is the big gulf between the Kenyans who live in the many shanty towns that ring the city, and the wealthy who frequent the huge western-style malls like Westgate. But Walubengo says she found resilience and unity among Kenyans, including at a blood drive in a city park.

"A lot of people who were interviewed when they were giving out blood were saying, 'You know I just gave blood. My blood has no color, my blood has no race, my blood has no religious denomination. And so there's a unity aspect there that a lot of people didn't expect."

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