De terroristische aanslag op het winkelcentrum in Nairobi zorgde voor afgrijzen over de hele wereld. Doordat het een populair ‘westers’ winkelcentrum is, zijn er niet alleen ooggetuigenverslagen van lokale mensen, maar waren er ook snel veel (westerse) journalisten ter plaatse. Een fotograaf van The New York Times en een correspondent van The Washington Post waren erbij en vertellen erover.
Tyler Hicks is een ervaren fotograaf. Hij was erbij in Irak en Afghanistan en won diverse prijzen. Hij werkt nu vanuit Nairobi voor The New York Times en was in eerste instantie als ‘gewone’ burger in een winkel, vlakbij het Westgate-winkelcentrum toen hij de schoten hoorde:
When I left the framing shop, I could see right away that there was something serious going on, because there were lots of people running away from the mall. I ran over there and within minutes I could see people who had been shot in the leg or stomach from what appeared to be small arms fire being helped by other civilians. This went on for about 30 minutes.
I ran over to the mall and I was able to photograph until my wife [Nichole Sobecki], who is also a photojournalist and was at our house, was able to collect my Kevlar helmet and professional cameras before she came to cover the news herself. Police and soldiers swept through the mall to pursue the assailants and to help civilians escape to safety.
Sudarsan Raghavan is chef-correspondent in Afrika voor The Washington Post en versloeg eerder de Arabische Lente vanuit Jemen en Libië. Hij beschrijft hoe zijn ‘thuis’ veranderde in oorlogsgebied:
I never expected to see two bullet-riddled corpses at the steps of the mall, at the entrance where I frequently passed through to visit an ATM or enjoy a cappuccino. I never expected to see cars pocked with bullet holes, their doors wide open, on the street I drove on several times a week. I never expected to call my wife while I was in Nairobi to tell her I was safe, or feel my eyes burning from tear gas when police tried to disperse onlookers away. Nor consider donning my flak jacket and helmet at a place where I often wore nothing more than shorts, a T-shirt and sandals.
Ruwe beelden van de schietpartij in het winkelcentrum:
Hicks beschrijft de wijze waarop de politie winkel na winkel afging, opzoek naar mensen die geëvacueerd moesten worden:
We were with one group of police for most of the time. There were moments when I branched out. If you had to stop, and they continued, you would be in the mall, completely alone, without anyone knowing where these gunmen were. So it was important to make the commitment to stay with them. They moved from place to place, sometimes running, sometimes having to clear areas around corners, where they couldn’t see around the corner, and it looked very much like a military operation inside.
They had two objectives as far as I could see: one was to try to find the militants. And two, to get civilians out of the mall. There were many civilians who had barricaded themselves inside shops, inside the movie theater, inside restaurants, inside a beauty salon — it seemed like everywhere you went, there were more people who just appeared out of the woodwork.
Raghavan was verder veel buiten het winkelcentrum te vinden, waar ook alle familieleden van mensen die mogelijk nog binnen waren stonden te wachten op nieuws. Een heftig beeld om te aanschouwen, aldus de journalist:
The most painful part of covering the attacks was watching the faces of people waiting outside the mall for news about their loved ones trapped inside. They were somewhere between sadness and hope; the eyes of one Indian woman who lingered for hours were perpetually welling with tears, but she never broke down crying.
Ten slotte zegt Hicks dat een aanval als deze wellicht zelfs nog heftiger is dan wat hij meemaakte in Afghanistan:
When something of this magnitude happens, it’s just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than being in Afghanistan or any other number of countries where there are wars going on. You have to think about where you’re standing, you have to think about where you have cover, the type of obstacles you can place between you and potential gunmen. A lot of the same rules apply when they’re sweeping through a building like that.
Reconstructie van de terroristische aanval: