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KENYA

French victim talks of Nairobi siege horror

A French expat who was wounded during the attack by Islamist terrorists at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi told French media on Monday how the gunman had been hunting for "Kenyans and Americans". Two French nationals were killed in the siege which began on Saturday.

French victim talks of Nairobi siege horror
A policeman carries a baby to safety after masked gunmen stormed an upmarket mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers. Photo: Simon Maina/AFP

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.

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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KIDNAP

France confirms death of kidnapped woman

Marie Dedieu, 66, a handicapped Frenchwoman who was kidnapped from her beachfront Kenyan home and taken to neighbouring Somalia has died, the French government confirmed on Wednesday.

“The contacts through which the French government was seeking to obtain the release of Marie Dedieu, held in Somalia since October 1th, have announced her death, but we have not been able to determine the date nor the circumstances,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Mrs Dedieu’s state of health, uncertainty over the conditions of her detention and the fact that the kidnappers probably refused to give her the medication that we sent her lead us to believe that this tragic outcome is unfortunately the most likely,” the ministry said.

A gang of 10 armed men seized Dedieu, 66, from Manda Island in Kenya’s Lamu archipelago earlier this month and fled by sea to Somalia, fighting off an attempt by Kenya’s navy to stop them.

There had been serious concern over the health of Dedieu, who was wheelchair-bound after an accident several years ago and required medication every few hours.

The ministry said it had informed Dedieu’s family of her death and was demanding the unconditional return of her remains.

“The French government expresses its profound shock, great sadness and solidarity with the family and loved ones of Marie Dedieu,” it said.

“It also expresses its indignation at the cruelty and complete absence of humanity shown by our compatriot’s abductors, whom we want to see identified and brought to justice.”

Kenyan officials said they suspected Somali Islamist Shebab insurgents had carried out the abduction, but sources in Somalia dismissed the theory.

Dedieu had lived for 15 years in the Lamu archipelago, off Kenya’s northern coast.

Her kidnap was the second in the area in less than a month and dealt a further blow to Kenya’s tourist trade after France and Britain warned travellers to avoid the Kenyan coastline near Somalia.

A British tourist, Judith Tebbutt, was seized to the north of Lamu and taken to Somalia on September 11 by an armed gang who killed her husband. She is believed to have been sold to pirates now holding her in central Somalia.

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