As investigations continue into the terrorist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, the city’s Muslim community is trying to come to terms with the atrocities committed by Islamist militants. Many say they stand with their fellow Kenyans in the wake of the attack, but some worry Muslims are being unfairly blamed.
It has been five days since a group of gunmen launched their assault inside the Westgate shopping mall. More than 60 civilians were killed, including women and children, and nearly 200 wounded.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militant group took responsibility for the attack, saying it was retribution for the killing of Muslims in Kenya’s military operations in Somalia.
But outside the Jamia mosque, a bastion of calm in the middle of Nairobi’s bustling central business district, Islamic scholar Abdullahi Galkayo said the terrorists' aims haad nothing to do with religion.
“Do you know Islam? Islam is peace. The name Islam itself is peace. You are not supposed to kill even an insect. If you kill a person, you have killed the whole world, in the Islamic religion,” said the scholar.
Galkayo said if the terrorists goal was to divide the people of Kenya, they have failed.
“This country is a wonderful country. Please, I am asking the person who came and did the thing in Westgate, let him now try again. We are vigilant, and everybody of Kenya, we ask them to be vigilant,” said Galkayo.
Witnesses who escaped the mall after the assault began last Saturday say the assailants tried to separate Muslims from the crowd to allow them to go free.
But the people at Jamia mosque said they knew Muslims who were killed and wounded in the assault.
Adding insult to injury, those who managed to escape are now being singled out as suspects. Sherif Thaha, a magazine publisher, said this was the case of his friend Ali, a driver who was shot while taking two customers shopping.
“At the end of the day, when the shooting started, they started with Ali. He was shot four times. We know him, we know his father, we know his mother, we know his wife, we know his brother who works here. Today, Ali is branded a terrorist, and he is in Memorial Hospital,” said Thaha.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in an address to the nation Tuesday 11 suspects had been arrested, but the names have not been made public.
Meantime, Kenyans are starting to get frustrated with the lack of information about the attack. Engineer Ahmed Agil said many questions needed to be answered.
“The question is how many were these people? We still do not know," said Agil. "How did they manage to go in? Why did it take so long?"
The government said investigators were probing the scene, and would conduct a forensic analysis to determine who exactly was involved in the attack, and to identify the victims still buried in the rubble.
According to the Red Cross, more than 60 people have been reported missing and friends are concerned they may have been inside the mall.