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Nairobi - Nahashon Mwangi was at work when he received a desperate telephone call from his son, pleading with him to rescue him from imminent death.
“Dad, I have been shot in the neck and hand. I am bleeding. Come and help me please,” his 21-year-old son begged.
Mwangi said he jumped in his car and sped across Nairobi to the Westgate shopping mall, where a group of Somali Islamist gunmen had stormed in to kill shoppers and staff.
Stuck in Nairobi's traffic logjam, he called his son again.
“Don't call me again,” was the reply. “I just want you to get me out of here. If they hear me talking, they are going to kill me!”
“It took me about an hour to access the area,” Mwangi recounted. “I was crying and pleading with the police to save my son. I remember shouting like a kid, crying and crying but they wouldn't let me through.”
Relief finally came five hours later, when his injured son was among a group of people located and evacuated by security forces who were sweeping the mall shop by shop.
He was rushed to Nairobi's Aga Khan University Hospital and was undergoing emergency surgery.
“I pray that he will be OK,” the shocked father said. “Why would these people do this to us?”
Another victim, mall worker Zipporah Wanjiru, emerged from the ordeal alive but in a state of total shock.
“They were speaking some language I could not understand,” she said of the attackers. “I could not understand anything - but the sound of their voices was scary.”
Wanjiru says she hid under a table together with other five colleagues.
“They were shooting indiscriminately, it was like a movie seeing people sprayed with bullets like that,” she said, bursting into tears. “I have never witnessed this in my life. Only God can heal us and our country.”
Cafe waiter Titus Alede said it was a “miracle from God” that he managed to escape the approaching gunmen.
“I was serving a client and these men came. They were not after money as they were shooting people without asking for anything. I remember them saying 'you killed our people in Somalia, it is our time to pay you back',” he recounted.
Alede risked his life and leapt from the first floor of the mall and “the death that I saw coming”.
“It was a miracle from God,” he said of his escape.
Another survivor, Cecilia, said she spent a cold, terrifying night hiding underneath a car in the parking area before she was rescued by Kenyan soldiers.
“When we tried to run they started shooting so I ran to the basement. I stayed in the basement under a car,” she said.
“There was a young man with a gun and he was really shooting as we were trying to get out. There were a few people who got injured and even some died, so I went under a vehicle.”
She emerged from the mall - shocked, shivering but safe -about 20 hours later. - Sapa-AFP