Omri, an Israeli employed at the Kenyan capital Nairobi Westgate shopping center which is still under terrorist attack this weekend, told Israeli consul Sima Amitai that he saw a hand grenade rolling between his legs and exploding. Both Omri’s legs were injured in the explosion, but only lightly. “It was a miracle,” he said.
Amitai met Omri in a Nairobi hospital where he had been treated for his injuries. She then took him to recover in her own apartment in toen.
Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Kenya Yaki Lopez and the embassy’s security officer arrived early in the afternoon Saturday at the command center of the local security forces, following the first reports about the attack.
“We knew the shopping center is owned by Israelis and renowned as a place where many Israelis hang out,” Lopez told Maariv. “Four of the restaurants there are also owned by Israelis and many Israelis are employed in the place. They were our main concern—but we also support our Kenyan friends and ready to assist in whichever way they ask.”
Kenyan security forces are still in a standoff Sunday with the gunmen who have killed at least 39 and injured at least 300 in the assault at a high end shopping mall in Nairobi. The al Qaeda-linked terrorists are holding an unknown number of hostages.
The Somali Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack on the Westgate mall, which is frequented by many Westerners. A Canadian diplomat and several other foreigners are among the dead.
Al Shabaab, which is fighting Kenyan and other African peacekeepers in Somalia, had repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenya if it did not pull its troops out of Somalia.
The group said on its official Twitter handle @HSM_Press that there would be no negotiations with Kenyan officials over the standoff.
“10 hours have passed and the Mujahideen are still strong inside #Westgate Mall and still holding their ground. All praise is due to Allah!,” the group tweeted.
This is the biggest single attack in Kenya since al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200. In 2002, the same terrorist cell attacked an Israeli-owned hotel on the coast and tried to shoot down an Israeli passenger plane in a coordinated attack.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that close members of his own family have been killed in the attack. The dead included children, and the wounded ranged in age from 2 to 78.
Two other Israelis had been trapped inside the mall. One, a woman, was eventually rescued by Kenyan forces. She reported hearing shots and hand grenade explosions around her hiding place. She kept in phone contact with embassy staff throughout the ordeal. A third Israeli managed to flee on his own from the mall.