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Religious leaders take united stand after attack in Kenya

27 September 2013

by a staff reporter


Armed response: soldiers of the Kenyan Defence Forces take their position at the Westgate, Nairobi, on Tuesday

Armed response: soldiers of the Kenyan Defence Forces take their position at the Westgate, Nairobi, on Tuesday

THREE days of national mourning in Kenya will end today, after the terrorist attack on a shopping centre which caused the deaths of at least 61 civilians and six soldiers. About 175 people were injured.

The Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack by gunmen on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. The group said that it was in retaliation for Kenyan army operations in Somalia.

The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, said in a television interview on Tuesday night - in which he declared the four-day siege to be over - that "Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed." More bodies still needed to be pulled from under rubble left after three floors of the building collapsed after a fire on Monday.

Four of the known victims are British. Citizens of France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa, and China, are among the others.

Gunmen stormed the upmarket shopping centre in Nairobi on Saturday. Eyewitness reports say that the attackers targeted non-Muslims, giving some Muslims a chance to leave the Mall, which was packed with about 1000 people at the time of the attack. Hostages were held inside the building until Tuesday.

There were reports that a British woman and two or three US citizens were among the attackers, leading to speculation that the woman was Samantha Lewthwaite, widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the terrorists behind the July 2007 suicide- bomb attacks on the London Underground. She was last traced to East Africa.

But, on its Twitter account, al-Shabab denied that she was involved: "We have an adequate number of young men who are fully committed and we do not employ our sisters in such military operations."

Christian and Muslim leaders in Kenya held a joint press conference, vowing that the "attempt to sow seeds of discord between Muslims and Christians will fail miserably, and that we shall remain united".

The secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, Adan Wachu, read a statement on behalf of the country's religious leaders: "We, the religious leaders, are engaged in robust dialogue to ensure that these relations are not just maintained but also made stronger."

The Bishop of Nairobi, the Rt Revd Joel Waweru, urged Christians not to seek revenge. He said: "We are so disheartened . . . but we would want to call upon our Christian brothers and sisters to keep peace and to maintain peace."

Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, to offer support and prayer.

"We, too, share in the grief that this senseless attack has brought. For a very dear churchwarden of my own diocese, Mr James Thomas, has been confirmed among those whose lives were so brutally taken.

"We pray for the fractured human family, in which such inhumane acts can be perpetrated."

The former Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, general secretary of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which is due to hold its GAFCON II conference in Nairobi next month, has flown out to the country today to assess the security arrangements for the conference.

In a video posted to all delegates, Dr Jensen said that he was "deeply concerned about events in Nairobi".

The conference, he said, "gives us an opportunity to stand alongside our Kenyan brothers and sisters in this hour of our need".

Dr Jensen said that his "great desire is to see us all there" in Nairobi, and he reminded delegates that security for the first conference in Jerusalem in 2008 had also been extremely tight.

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