'The people who did this, they are animals'
Published 23/09/2013 | 23:36
The father of an eight-year-old British girl has told of the "heart stopping" moment he learned his daughter and wife had been killed by terrorists who laid siege to a shopping mall in Kenya.
Louis Bawa said daughter Jennah and his Kenyan-born wife Zahira were killed by "animals" who were using "religion as an excuse to kill people", in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
The three-day siege appeared close to an end after 10pm today, when the Kenyan police force said it had regained control of the huge Westgate shopping mall, hours after it emerged more than 60 hostages had been killed.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it appeared at least six of the dead were British after returning from a Balmoral break with the Queen to chair a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee in Whitehall.
Mr Bawa, chief executive of a marketing company which counts Aston Martin Racing as its main client, said: "The last time I spoke to them was on Friday evening, I didn't get a chance to catch up with them on Saturday morning. They were going to Westgate to do what they always did, grocery shopping. This time they didn't come home.
"I think our last conversation was about just normal things, school fees, something like that, I can't remember. I don't know exactly what happened but it looks to me that they were gunned down ... they were just shot.
"The people who did this, they are vigilantes, they are animals. At the end of the day they are using religion as an excuse to kill people. They're saying that they were targeting certain people, but they were targeting anyone.
"Zahira and Jennah were Muslims, but these animals just shot them the same as all of the others. At first I was convinced that they would be OK. I had hope. Then on Sunday night there was a team that went in to bring out some bodies and they took photographs of other bodies.
"We all had to look at these pictures - something I would never want anyone to have to do - and identify them. That was how I knew. My heart just stopped, that was the last news in the world I wanted to hear. It's like nothing else, I can't fathom it, even now.
"Jennah rang me last week, we had a chat and I said that if she did well in her exams, I would buy her any present in the world.
"She said she wanted a pony, a particular coloured pony but she said she thought even though her exams were not until December, she better tell me now so I could start saving up because she was going to work very hard. I just want some justice now to come to the animals that did this."
Also thought to be among the British victims was Ross Langdon, 33, an architect with dual British and Australian nationality who was shot dead with his pregnant girlfriend Elif Yavuz, a Dutchwoman educated at Harvard.
At 10pm, the Kenya Police force's official Twitter account reported: "We are in charge of the West Gate situation."
Earlier, Mr Cameron said on Twitter: "I've just chaired a meeting of Cobra. Tragically the latest reports are that six British nationals have been killed in the Kenya terror attacks."
Speaking to reporters outside the Cabinet Office, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the estimated death toll had risen from four to a likely six.
He said: "Of the additional two, one is confirmed and another one we believe to be a British national and we are awaiting final confirmation but we are pretty certain we now have six British nationals who have died.
"The total number of people dead we believe exceeds 60 and it is possible we will discover further British nationals once the building is fully secure."
When asked about reports that Britons may have been involved in the execution of the attack, Mr Hammond replied: "I've seen those reports but there's no evidence to support those claims.
"We have been in touch with the Kenyan authorities throughout. We have excellent lines of communication with them... We haven't yet been asked to provide any assistance beyond broad background advice."
During the operation, Kenyan police said three terrorists had been killed and others injured as security forces moved into the Westgate complex in an attempt to bring the three-day stand-off to an end.
Eleven soldiers from the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) were also wounded in the fighting.
The Kenyan authorities have said that 62 civilians have now been confirmed dead while 65 people were being treated in hospital.
The start of the final assault was heralded by a series of loud blasts and a barrage of gunfire as a pall of thick black smoke began to rise over the mall.
The chief of the Kenyan defence forces, General Julius Karangi, said the Islamist militants who carried out the attack - thought to number around 10 to 15 - included fighters from various countries.
Responsibility for the attack as been claimed by al-Shabab - an Islamist group based in neighbouring Somalia with links to al Qaida.
Kenyan troops have been taking part in an African Union force involved in helping the Somali government to wrest back control of the country from al-Shabab.
Earlier, a Twitter account purporting to belong to an al-Shabab spokesman named a 24-year-old man from London as one of the gunmen.
The @hsm_press2 account listed a string of names it claimed were involved in the attack before being closed down, as previous usernames linked to the terrorist group had been.
The Foreign Office had said earlier it was investigating suggestions that British terrorist suspect Samantha Lewthwaite - known as the "White Widow" - who was married to one of the 7/7 bombers, was among the attackers, after initial reports that a number of women were involved.
However the Kenyan authorities have now said all the militants were men, although some were said to have been dressed as women.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Cameron was at pains to stress that the perpetrators did not represent the majority of Muslims but carried out the atrocity "in the name of terror, violence and extremism".
"These appalling terrorist attacks that take place, where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion, they don't," he said.
"They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world.
The crisis began on Saturday when 10 to 15 al-Shabab extremists stormed the mall, throwing grenades and firing on terrified shoppers.
The terrorists roamed through the complex reportedly seeking to separate Muslims - who were allowed to leave - from non-Muslims, who were killed or taken hostage.