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French victim talks of Nairobi siege horror

The Local/AFP · 23 Sep 2013, 13:49

Published: 23 Sep 2013 13:49 GMT+02:00

Pauline, a 35-year-old French expat who was in Nairobi's Westgate shopping centre at the time of the attack, told French media on Monday how she lay on top of her children when gunmen from Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab stormed the mall and opened fire.

She also recalled how during a conversation with one of the terrorists he told her the people they wanted the most were "Kenyans and Americans".

Pauline, was shot when the Islamist terrorists stormed the centre on Saturday, but was able to make it out alive with her children. The siege, wich has left at least 68 dead, was still ongoing on Monday afternoon, with reports that the gunmen were threatening to kill a number of hostages.

Speaking to French radio RTL on Monday, she described the violence and the fear of those caught up in the terrorist attack.

“Shots were being fired every 30 seconds,” she told RTL. “A gunman came towards us. He saw us and opened fire. I think there were about 15 of us, most of them were dead. After firing at us he left. I was lying on top of my children. Thankfully they were not hurt."

The victim also told of her brief encounter with one of the armed gunman, who told her “Kenyans and Americans” were their main targets.

“The man came back two hours later, asking if the children were alive, because he said they were letting the children go.

“I told him I was from France, but he did not look too happy. He said the people they wanted the most were Kenyans and Americans.

“At first they wanted to let the children leave alone. But I talked to them for a long time,” she said.

She was able to talk the armed men into allowing her to leave and she eventually made her way to safety accompanied by four children.

The two French victims who lost their lives in the militant attack on a Nairobi shopping mall were a mother and daughter who were executed in the parking lot, a minister said Sunday.

"Two of our compatriots were attacked and executed in a cowardly way, in the parking lot of the shopping centre," said Helene Conway-Mouret, the French minister in charge of nationals living abroad.

Story continues below…

Conway-Mouret said there were a total of seven French nationals in the posh Westgate complex at the time of the assault, which began on Saturday.

Five of them managed to flee. One suffered bullet injuries and had been admitted in hospital but was not "in danger" she told BFM-TV.

"They are in shock," she said, referring to the five who escaped. The minister said the French embassy in the Kenyan capital had set up a crisis cell and asked the nearly 1,500 registered French nationals to remain "vigilant." 

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The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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