Friday 22 September 2017

Mall victim offered himself as hostage to save children

Mitul Shah with wife Rupal and daughter Sarai, aged two; while he was unable to convince gunmen to agree he gave victims time to flee
Mitul Shah with wife Rupal and daughter Sarai, aged two; while he was unable to convince gunmen to agree he gave victims time to flee

Benedict Moore-Bridger

A British victim of the Kenya shopping mall massacre was murdered after offering himself as a hostage to save a group of children, it has emerged.

Mitul Shah, (38) a marketing executive who was born in London, tried to negotiate with al-Shabaab terrorists in a bid to save the 33 children taking part in a TV cooking competition that his company was sponsoring on the roof of the Westgate centre in Nairobi.

Colleagues said his efforts are thought to have given the victims precious seconds to flee and hide.

Mr Shah was unable to convince the gunmen to agree, and he and a number of children were shot dead as well as the radio presenter Ruhila Adatia-Sood.

Mr Shah, a father of one who graduated in management science with computing from the University of Kent, joined Bidco Oil, an east African cooking oil company, as a management trainee 16 years ago.

A director of the company, Dipak Shah, said everyone was feeling a "profound sense of loss" and offering their sympathies to his wife Rupal and daughter Sarai, aged two.

Cars covered in debris in the car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi
Cars covered in debris in the car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi
Debris and destroyed vehicles are seen at the collapsed Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi
The destruction at the Westgate Shopping Centre spread across several levels
Wreckages of vehicles is within the destruction at the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi
Burned cars parked on what is left of the collapsed upper car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi
Shocking scenes of destruction at the collapsed upper car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi
The car park collapsed during the attack by terrorists on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi
Cars hang perilously from the upper floors of a car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi

He said: "We are in constant contact with them. They are devastated, as are we all.

"He was trying to negotiate the freedom of the children in order for him to be taken as a hostage. Some had managed to save their lives but unfortunately he, and others, did not. It was a heroic and brave act – a true reflection of his soul."

Witnesses have told how the Islamic terrorists stormed the roof, firing at gas cylinders in a bid to cause maximum casualties.

Described as "dynamic, enterprising, hard working", Mitul Shah had climbed the ranks of the company, playing "a pivotal role" in helping Bidco become the largest manufacturer of vegetable oils, margarine and animal feeds in east, central and southern Africa, Mr Shah said.

A Manchester United fan who loved cooking, he spearheaded the company's move into social media and also took part in numerous endurance races and scaling Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

He was also chairman of Bidco's football team. "He lived life to the fullest. He was a very positive person, full of joy, full of laughter," Mr Shah said. "We are all grieving and he will be missed widely."

A total of 61 people remain missing, presumed buried under the rubble of the mall, sparking fears the official death toll of 67 people – including five Britons – could rise.

Irish Independent

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