Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kenya mall victims touched all of society

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NAIROBI, Kenya -- Karen Wambui walked slowly through the Nairobi city morgue's turquoise and yellow iron gates, still trying to process what she had seen inside.

She had just confirmed the last body still there from the Westgate mall attack nearly a week earlier was that of her son, Calan Munyaka.

The 27-year-old was one of 37 victims of the al-Shabab terrorist assault whose bodies were brought to the single-storey main morgue building in the Kenyan capital, where a crucifix is nailed above the wooden entrance doors and the smell of the dead drifts out the open windows. Other bodies were taken to city hospitals and elsewhere.

For nearly a week, Munyaka lay in the morgue, identified only as "Kenyan male, adult."

On Friday afternoon, the pathologists pulled Munyaka's corpse from a refrigerated chamber and showed Wambui.

"I've just seen a gunshot," she said, wiping her eyes with a light blue sweatshirt. "Here," she added, pointing to the left side of her neck.

Officials say at least 61 civilians and six security troops were killed in the four-day takeover of the mall by the al-Qaida-linked militant group. With the Kenyan Red Cross reporting an additional 59 people still missing, the toll is expected to rise and the morgue may fill up again.

Over the weekend at the city's main cemetery on Langata Road, a single gravedigger laboured in the morning sun, clawing away at the deep-red soil with a shovel and pitchfork in preparation for more burials.

The Westgate mall was packed with midday Saturday shoppers on Sept. 21 when the teams of al-Shabab gunmen stormed the building and opened fire. Authorities believe as many as 15 attackers were involved, but only six of their bodies have been identified so far -- five of whom were said to have been killed by security forces' gunfire and one who died in the rubble of the building's collapsed roof.

Meanwhile, a long convoy whisked through the busy intersection next to the morgue, carrying President Uhuru Kenyatta to his hometown of Gatundu, about 45 minutes outside of the city. He was on his way to bury his nephew and his nephew's fianc©e -- two other victims of the Westgate mall attack whose fate attracted the attention of the nation.

But for Calan Munyaka there was no fanfare.

Wambui returned later Friday and quietly took her son's body away.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2013 A12

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