Kenya mall attack hits home for international students

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As details emerged about the Sept. 21 shooting at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where
67 people were killed and nearly 200 more injured, APU international students watched, horrified, from halfway across the world.

“There were moments where I felt like tears were very close to my eyes as I see the circumstance,” said senior international business major and Kenyan student Shadrack Kiprono. “This is really a diverse place where there are so many people from diverse places, like tourists and Kenyans. That is why people go there to shop, it has an international aspect to it. That is why I think they [the shooters] went there, because they wanted to hurt many people.”

The shooters, an al-Qaeda linked
terrorist group from Somalia known as Al Shabab, also instigated a four-day hostage situation. That came to an end Tuesday, Sept. 24 when the Kenyan army stormed the mall, releasing hostages and killing some of the attackers.

The attackers had reportedly brutally mutilated and tortured their victims. According to media reports, victims were hung by hooks from the ceilings; children, with knives still in them, were stuffed into refrigerators; others were dismembered or castrated, or had slashed throats or amputated fingers,

The victims reportedly included people from various parts of Europe, North America, South America, Asia, New Zealand and other parts of Africa.

The extreme violence hit global headlines and has drastically impacted students on campus, particularly international students who are from or have lived in Kenya.

“I live 30 minutes from the mall. … One of my teachers mentioned that he was in the hospital visiting one of the students from our school,” said junior applied health major Kelsey Ham, who was born in Kenya.

Another student said she had recently visited Westgate Mall and was frantically trying to contact family and friends to make sure they were safe. Her family currently lives in Kenya.

“It was a shock because nothing like that had happened for a while, so it was extremely unexpected,” sophomore applied exercise science major Kaitlyn Kean said. “Also some of my friends were there, so I was worried and couldn’t get in touch with them for a while, so the weekend was pretty stressful trying to make sure everyone I knew over there was safe.”

Kiprono said he was worried about his family, despite the fact that they live four to six hours away from Nairobi.

“My family hosts a lot of Americans because we have a lot of non-profit organizations in our communities. It was a concern to me because my parents could have gone to Nairobi to pick a team up or been taking a team back, and that is a place to go shop. So it was a threat as I was imagining that,” said Kiprono.

APU has a large focus on serving globally and supporting international students. With resources like Global Vision Week and International Chapel, these students hope to raise awareness about this situation.

“I think the most important thing is prayer, that there is going to be victory over this, because prayer moves mountains,” said Kiprono.

With the spiritual support that students with connections to Kenya are receiving, they hope to give back to their native country after facing such a horrible tragedy.

“While I was there, I did some peace effort things during the war, and relief work, so when I go back at Christmas, I will most likely get involved in something,” Kean said.

Though unable to return for at least another two years, Kiprono desires to use his educational training received here to improve the conditions of his country once he returns.

“I love politics and one day I want to be in politics, so that is one thing that I would do, get involved in the security matters of the country,” said Kiprono.

Ham said that although she wants to go back as well, at this point that’s not possible.

“I will definitely be praying for recovery and relief, but mostly peace,” she said.