Was an American security team inside Kenya massacre mall?

Harvard graduate claims she was rescued by 'Americans' after she saw man sat next to her shot dead

UK Daily Mall

25 September 2013

* Harvard educated, World Bank lawyer Bendita Malakia was rescued on Saturday by an 'American security team'
* The South Carolina resident was eating with a friend when the terror attack began at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya
* They were rescued after spending five hours hiding in a staff room at one of the stores in the upmarket mall
* Escaped with 15 others and her American rescuers under a hail of bullets
* Another survivor, Pennsylvania-born Nick Handler was at a cafe with his daughter, Julia, when the siege began Saturday and they had a harrowing escape


An American woman who was trapped inside the Nairobi mall as terrorists ran amok claims she was eventually rescued by an 'American security team'.

That is according to Bendita Malakia, the Harvard-trained lawyer who was caught up in the siege and hid along with 15 others in a store inside the mall for five hours before the armed men arrived to lead them to safety.

Thirty-year-old Malakia, who is from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, recounted the frantic scene tonight in an interview with NBC News as her rescuers bluntly told her, 'If you guys want to get out, we understand it's dangerous, but this is probably your best shot. If you don't get out now you may not get out.'

Rushing to the exit, accompanied by the armed security men who she believed were from the United States, two grenades thrown from only 30-feet away detonated near to them, but thankfully for Malakia she escaped and returned home to her parents on Monday.

While there has been no official confirmation of any direct American involvement in the stand-off between the heavily-armed militants from the Somalia-based al Shabaab and Kenyan Defence Forces, the statement from World Bank employee, Malakia, seems to suggest there was.

Indeed, on the second day of the four day siege in Nairobi which claimed the lives of at least 67 people and injured over 200, there were reports from French press agency AFP that Israeli security forces were actively aiding Kenyan forces.

And as the attack carried on to its final conclusion, British MI6 agents were also reported to be providing assistance to their Kenyan counterparts.

However, it is not known who the 'American security team' who came to Malakia's rescue were working for or what capacity they were operating under.

Kenyan officials have acknowledged that Israeli and American security personnel have taken part in planning the operation to retake the complex and provided logistical support according to the UK's Independent newspaper.

Chillingly for Malakia, she was almost killed within moments of the mall attack's initial onslaught and only survived because she moved seats at the restaurant she was sitting in with a friend.

Deciding they didn't like their seats they requested to move and then suddenly their revelry was broken by the sound of explosions and gunfire.

'We had a drink, and we're chatting, and then all of a sudden there's this explosion,' said Malakia to NBC News.

'The gentleman who had taken my old seat must have gotten shot immediately because he was basically on the floor, on the ground, like dead right next to the chair that I was sitting in.'

Running for their lives to hide in the break-room of a store inside the upmarket mall, Malakia said that despite reports the gunmen were targeting non-Muslims for death, in the first few moments that was not the case.

'When they first came in, they were just shooting. They weren't asking any questions, they were just shooting,' Malakia said. 'Later, they tried to differentiate on religion, but at first they were just shooting.'

Cowering in silence in cramped conditions along with 15 others, Malakia said that they could still hear the muffled shouts and screams from across the four story shopping mall in the Kenyan capital.

'People are screaming, you hear lots of running, gunshots, explosions, and there’s all sorts of things,' she said to NBC News.

'Some of the older women especially are hyperventilating, it's just kind of, it's complete chaos, it's mostly gunshots and screaming and running at that point.

'You could hear people screaming don't shoot.'

It was then that she took the opportunity to text her family in the United States, in case she did not make it out alive.

'It was terrifying, we all had a very real sense that we were going to die,' Malakia said.

Now back with her family in North Carolina, Malakia has said she doesn't yet know whether she'll ever return to Kenya.

'I think part of it was luck. We did a lot of praying in there.'

This comes as an American NGO worker described the terrifying moment he dashed across Nairobi's Westgate Mall carrying his two-year-old daughter and hid in a storage room after hearing explosions and gunshots.

Pennsylvania-born Nick Handler, who is a field director for farming non-profit One Acre Fund, was sitting at a cafe in the mall with his daughter, Julia, when the deadly siege began on Saturday.

His wife Lyndsay, who is eight months pregnant with the couple's second child, was shopping on the floor below, leaving the family separated during the chaos.

All of a sudden I just heard a loud explosion followed by a few gun shots and I just immediately just grabbed (Julia) and luckily it was right by the door and we were able to sprint out of the cafe and ran across the mall,' Handler told ABC News by phone on Monday.

The father and daughter initially followed other frightened mallgoers out a service exit towards the back of the mall before a wave of people came rushing back inside, apparently 'running away from some shooting out the front,' Handler said.

Hugging Julia tight, Handler went back inside the mall and ended up hiding in an inventory room with about 40 other people while al Qaeda-linked gunmen massacred innocent mallgoers outside.

He said at one point it seemed the terrorists may have discovered their hiding spot as a group of people who had left the storage room suddenly started rushing back in, screaming.

'Aside from that initial explosion, this was probably the most terrifying moment,' Handler told ABC, 'not knowing if perhaps the people who had left had encountered some of the attackers who were then coming into the area that we were hiding.'

Julia spent the whole time pressed up against her dad's side.

'When we were running away from the initial explosion and then into hiding she was definitely freaked out but once we got settled down and we were just waiting the situation out she was incredibly brave,' he said.

Meanwhile, Lyndsay, who left her husband and daughter to go get groceries just moments before the first explosion, hid in a dark movie theater on the third floor of the busy shopping mall. Eventually, she made it to the roof with another group.

'That was just the most terrifying thing for her, not being able to be with us and having no idea what was happening,' Handler said.

Luckily, the couple were able to communicate on the phone.

'We were talking that whole time,' he said. 'I was aware she was safe and she was aware that I was inside and she was helping to communicate our location to people who might be able to help.'

After an agonizing wait, Lyndsay was rescued by heroic plain clothed policemen who led her down a fire escape to safety.

Some 90 minutes later, Handler and his daughter were also rescued and the young family shared an emotional reunion.

The charity worker said he rushed down a driveway on the side of the mall to knew exactly where his wife was waiting. They took each other in a tearful embrace.

'We just ran towards each other and hugged,' he said.

'Just the look on her face, the emotion and I think all of the fear and the uncertainty that had been building up. She just let it all out. It was a pretty emotional moment for all of us.'

Read more, including photos and video at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2431471/Kenya-attack-Was-US-security-team-inside-mall-Harvard-grad-Bendita-Malakia-says-rescued-Americans.html