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Nairobi Mall Reopens 2 Years After Al-Shabab Attack

  • VOA News

Kenya's Westgate shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, has reopened nearly two years after it became the scene of one of the country's worst terrorist attacks, and just days before U.S. President Barack Obama visits the country.

The upscale mall reopened Saturday with new security measures in place, including x-ray machines, explosives detectors and guard towers.

About 50 shoppers – some of them survivors of the massacre – lined up to be the first to pass through newly installed metal detectors at the main entrance, after Nairobi governor Evans Kidero and Atul Shah, owner of the main regional supermarket chain Nakumatt, declared the mall back in business in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.


"Today we are excited because we are back on our feet, and we can convince the world that terrorism is not bringing us down," said Ben Mulla, a 34-year-old communications contractor and a siege survivor, who said he still has painful memories of the attack.

"They didn't kill our spirit," Kidero told French news agency AFP. "We are resilient, we are positive, we always look forward, as demonstrated by the number of people who have come here today."

By midday, hundreds of shoppers were in the mall, which had no memorial of any kind for those killed in the September 2013 attack.

Reports indicate only a small number of mall employees who were present for the attacks are returning to the mall to work.

While business owners have expressed confidence that the mall will once again become a bustling marketplace, some residents of the upper middle-class neighborhoods nearby have expressed doubts that the new security measures will be enough to keep shoppers safe.

Members of the al-Shabab militant group stormed Westgate mall on September 21, 2013, hurling grenades and opening fire on shoppers and employees. Before the three-day siege ended, 67 people were dead.

Retaliation attack

Al-Shabab has said the attack was in retaliation for Kenyan troops' participation in anti-militant activities in neighboring Somalia.

The group has since continued attacks, with the deadliest one in April of this year when gunmen ambushed the campus of Garissa University in eastern Kenya, killing 148 people.

The attacks have taken a toll on Kenya's economy and its appeal as a tourist destination, as the country no longer is seen as an island of stability in a troubled part of the world.

Obama is scheduled to make his first visit to Kenya as president later this month.

The U.S. State Department has sent out a travel warning to U.S. citizens traveling in Kenya at that time, and security is expected to be high during his visit.

Some material for this report came from AFP.