President Paul Kagame yesterday expressed his solidarity with Kenyans over an attack in the Kenyan capital Nairobi that has seen a group of terrorists kill at least 60 people and injuring more than 175.
The latest death toll was announced last night, as the siege went on for over 40 hours, with the terrorists together with an unspecified number of hostages still holed up in Westgate Mall, by press time, in the upscale neighbourhood of Westlands.
“Kenya should not feel alone -- the region, African and the world are with you. The Kenyan spirit is strong and will prevail...we stand in solidarity with our Kenyan brothers and sisters against terror,” President Kagame wrote on his Twitter handle.
He said that he had spoken with President Uhuru Kenyatta to offer condolences.
The masked gunmen stormed a packed upmarket mall early Saturday, and started shooting indiscriminately and reportedly used hand grenades that killed many and wounded others.
“The government and people of Rwanda extend condolences to our Kenyan brothers and sisters on this terrible Westgate tragedy. Kenyans affected and leaders are in our thoughts,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo wrote on her twitter handle.
Ernest Rwamucyo, Rwanda’s High Commission to India tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and hostages of the cowardly attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya.”
In a telephone interview, the Mayor of the City of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba, extended ‘deepest condolences’ to bereaved families.
“Rwandans are saddened by the act of terrorism which targeted innocent civilians, we should join hands as East Africans and fight against terrorism and its root causes,” he added.
According to Rwanda’s High Commission in Nairobi, there were no indications any Rwandan had died or had been hurt from the attack.
The news also devastated Kenyans in Rwanda.
“We are distressed by what is happening in our country, we wish quick recovery to the injured people and send our deep and sincere condolences to the bereaved families. We hope the death tollwon’t increase further and that the Kenyan Armed Forces will apprehend the terrorists and quell the situation” Francis Wahome, a Kenyan resident in Rwanda, told The New Times yesterday.
We are one
Meanwhile, Kenyans of different walks of life were united in the aftermath of the siege, that, security officials said was being masterminded by between 10-15 terrorists, from helping in evacuating freed hostages to donating blood to the injured.
Yesterday thousands thronged different makeshift facilities which were set up to donate blood, while others stayed overnight at the vicinity of the mall to help any hostages that came out.
Others took to social media with the trending hashtag #WeAreOne to demonstrate the oneness of the nationals in this tragedy, which Somali Al-Qaeda linked jihadist, Al-shabaab claimed responsibility for.
The tragedy also united officials from political divide, with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other opposition politicians appearing alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta to address a news conference at the State House, Nairobi.
President Kenyatta himself lost a nephew and his fiancé during the tragedy.
“We are a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious society. Our diversity is also our strength. Sadly; the evil and cowardly act of terrorism has claimed lives and injured more. Let us all continue to keep all the affected people in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
“I want every bereaved family to know that I mourn very deeply with them. No one should lose their life so needlessly, so senselessly, and no family should have to receive news that their loved one has been killed by a criminal bunch of cowards,” the Kenyan President said.
He saluted the high degree of volunteerism and selflessness demonstrated by Kenyans as the siege continued into the second day.
“The Al-Shabaab terror group have claimed responsibility for this cowardly act of terror on social media. However, investigations are underway to conclusively establish those responsible for this mayhem, so that we can have full accountability. They shall not get away with their despicable, beastly acts. Like the cowardly perpetrators now cornered in the building, we will punish the masterminds swiftly and painfully.”
By press time, the Kenyan security agents and troops had surrounded the Westgate mall and police and soldiers combed the building, hunting the attackers shop by shop.
Al Shabaab, is battling Kenyan and other African peacekeepers in Somalia and had repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of the Horn of Africa country.
And President Kenyatta vowed that Kenyan troops will continue to fight the terrorists.
An unknown number of hostages are still being held by the gunmen, the Kenyan government said early Sunday.
The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU) Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, condemned the dastardly terrorist attacks.
In statement released yesterday she said: “This cowardly attack, for which the al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab group has claimed responsibility, once again underlines the imperative for renewed and reinvigorated efforts to combat terrorism throughout the continent.
She reiterated the AU’s commitment to sustain its efforts to counter terrorism throughout the continent, as well as to pursue its efforts to stabilise the situation in Somalia and the fight against Al Shabaab, through its Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
Meanwhile, the international police organisation (Interpol ) said Sunday it has offered to deploy an Incident Response Team consisting of specialised forensic officers, anti-terror experts and analysts after the mall attack in Kenya.
Interpol Secretary General Ronald K Noble said: “This deadly incident in Nairobi reminds us all how much harm a handful of heavily-armed, hateful and bloodthirsty terrorists can cause in any country.”
Among the dead hostages was the Kofi Awoonor, a renowned Ghanaian poet, who was at the mall at the time the mall was besieged.
Other reported foreign nationals said to have died from the mall include Americans, British, French, Canadian and Chinese.