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Saturday 23 August 2014

'Just doing my job,' says Irish hero who took on Nairobi mall terrorists

Published 02/11/2013 | 01:55

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A FORMER Irish Army Ranger who rescued survivors during the terrorist attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall has told how he was "just doing my job".

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The Kenya-based security consultant (37) and a colleague were hailed as heroes for risking their lives saving trapped shoppers from gunmen who murdered at least 70 men, women and children.

The ex-soldier, who dodged bullets from al-Shabaab terrorists and returned fire, killing one of them, has described for the first time the horrific scenes of carnage he witnessed shortly after the massacre began on September 21.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, he revealed: "There were bodies littered everywhere. They (the terrorists) cut down everyone in front of them."

The soldier, who did not want to be identified, said he believed that the al-Qa'ida-aligned terror group showed a level of military training that had not seen before in such an incident.

He said: "The media spin coming from Kenya is that this was a small, poorly organised gang but from my first-hand experience that is not the case. They were well-trained, well-prepared and disciplined."

The security consultant also claimed that there was still confusion over the actual death toll during the four days that it took Kenyan forces to take back control of the shopping mall.

The former Ranger, who said he saw at least 100 dead bodies
The ransacked Fone Xpress shop in Westgate mall
The ransacked Fone Xpress shop in Westgate mall

"Just counting the number of bodies I saw that day, I estimate that at least 100 and probably a lot more people were killed and are not accounted for. I believe there has been a lot of disinformation put out."

The former Ranger, who served on UN missions in Lebanon and East Timor, is the head of security for a major oil company employing 5,500 staff across East Africa.

CARNAGE

He and a colleague were in their office a 10-minute drive away when heavily armed terrorists stormed into the Westgate Mall, which was full of Saturday afternoon shoppers.

The ex-soldier said: "We were notified of the attack immediately and quickly discovered that two of our clients were trapped in a restaurant within the Mall.

"At that stage we had just one mission and that was to rescue two of our clients. In our efforts to get to them in the shopping centre, we helped evacuate a lot of people. There was nothing heroic about that – I was just doing my job."

He and his colleague were the first rescuers to enter the fashionable shopping centre within 30 minutes of the beginning of the attack.

It is estimated that the two men, along with a few police officers, helped to evacuate up to 500 people during the drama.

Neither man was armed when the incident occurred but the former Ranger managed to obtain a handgun from a civilian, which he used to engage the terrorists.

CCTV footage from inside the mall showed the security specialist armed with a handgun as he made a dash to save his clients who were trapped along with 100 others in a restaurant.

In a major interview to be published in tomorrow's 'Sunday Independent', the security consultant describes in detail the dramatic rescue operation and the horrifying carnage he encountered.

"There are serious lessons to be learnt from this attack by security services around the world," he said, adding: "The level of organisation and discipline suggests that they could try the same type of suicide mission anywhere in the West."

Read the full account of the heroic rescue in tomorrow's 'Sunday Independent'

 

- Paul Williams

Irish Independent

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