AN Australian lawyer who was in the Kenyan shopping mall attacked over the weekend says there was confusion about what was going on during the incident.
Heidi Edwards, who is working with the Kenya Human Rights Commission, told about finding a service exit to escape from the upmarket Westgate mall in Nairobi after the attack began.
At least 68 people are now confirmed to have died in the attack by Somali militants, but most of the hostages within the mall have been rescued, according to Kenyan authorities on Monday morning.
“It sounded like scaffolding falling at first, I wasn’t that concerned,” Ms Edwards said.
“Then there was some panic going on and then another one (noise) in quick succession and then some gunshots.”
She found an unlocked “staff only” door leading to a service exit and used the stairs to get down to the ground floor along with a group of people.
“Somebody else, not us, poked their head out and saw a gunman,” Ms Edwards said.
“I don’t know if it was one of the assailants, it might have been a police officer.
“So we had no real choice but to stay in the stairwell.”
When she heard the grenades start up again, “it was clear it was not under control”.
“When they started again it was clear to me that there was someone with a lot of artillery and that was when I started to get quite nervous,” she said.
“There was no sirens which, for a Westerner was quite surprising – if that happened in Australia there would be sirens everywhere.
“It was just confusion more than anything else.”
Melbourne woman Sarah Williamson also survived the attack, with her father who works for the UN.
“She heard the first grenade go off and said, ‘What was that, dad?’,” mum Linda told Fairfax radio.
“Then he heard the guns firing and he knew exactly what it was and he said, ‘We’re under attack, everybody to the back of the room.'”
The 23-year-old spent six hours trapped in the store before she could run to safety.
An Australian-UK dual citizen is among those confirmed dead.
Australians still in Kenya have been urged to avoid all public places in Nairobi for the next 24-48 hours and closely monitor local media.
- Kenyan officials say assault to end siege begins (sfgate.com)
- Arabic-speaking gunmen kill 30, injure 60 in Israel-owned mall in Nairobi, Kenya (warsclerotic.wordpress.com)
- Shabab claims Nairobi attack, warns Kenya (rinf.com)
- Australian killed in Nairobi mall attack (sbs.com.au)
- Kenya mall attack: Death toll rises to 59 (marketwatch.com)