, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 2 – Four police officers who risked their lives to save victims at the Westgate shopping mall on September 21 will receive special recognition and promotions.
Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo says he is impressed by actions of the officers who deserve to be recognised in a special way for putting their lives on the line, and saving many people during the initial stages of the siege.
The attack occurred when Al Shabaab attackers stormed the mall at midday and opened fire indiscriminately as others tossed grenades at shoppers who included children participating in a cooking competition organised by East FM.
Kimaiyo through spokesman Masoud Mwinyi of the Administration Police said the planned promotions will be a way of motivating the officers and their colleagues.
“It does not mean that this is what officers must do to get promoted, it is just one way of boosting their morale and that of their colleagues,” Mwinyi said and urged other officers to emulate them. “The Inspector General is proud of them, and as a department we are happy with what they did.”
Those to be honoured include Tawfiq Baya, the official driver of Mwinyi and Kabete police Chief Stephen Lelei who sustained a gunshot wound on his leg while fighting off the attackers. Others are Benjamin Chemjor and Sergeant Aden Iya.
Photographs of the officers are now a permanent feature of the daring rescue mission after they were captured carrying babies while firmly clutching their rifles.
One of the officers recalled the Saturday afternoon siege when he rushed to mall to rescue shoppers under a hail of bullets from Al Shabaab attackers.
“Most of the victims were raising their hands while asking for help, we tried the best we could to save lives,” Chemjor said.
“Some of them were innocent children who were brave enough to run to us yet we were armed, and we carried them away to safety outside,” he added.
Baya on his part said he made several trips into the mall to assist the victims. “The children were crying and running to us, we had to get them out,” he said.
Kabete police chief Lelei who was among the first to respond to the distress call from victims, was shot on the leg during a shootout with the attackers.
“I came face-to-face with them, and that is when I sustained a gunshot wound, but we did our best to save victims,” he said.
The official death toll in the Westgate mall siege stands at 61 civilians, six security officers and five attackers, with over 200 other people wounded.
Nine more bodies were retrieved from the rubble at the weekend but have not been identified by their next of kin and it remains unclear if those recovered were part of the 67 included in the death toll released by authorities.
Two of them include those of Kenya Defence Forces soldiers who died while trying to rescue hostages.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced plans to set up a Commission of Inquiry to identify lapses in the country’s security and intelligence systems.
There have been blame games amongst security chiefs in the country after reports indicated that they failed to thwart the attack even after receiving prior intelligence of an impending attack at the mall.