Nairobi Siege

September 24, 2013 by  

Nairobi Siege, Peter Churchman waited for his wife as long as he could. Carrying his young niece in his arms, he wandered from one security official to another outside the Westgate mall in the first hours after the attack in Nairobi. Against a soundtrack of gunfire from the nearby building he begged for help or information. The Briton had been separated from his wife, Eva, inside, after the shopping centre came under attack from a group of suspected Islamist gunmen sending weekend shoppers fleeing.

After three hours of hiding under tables and cradling his niece against grenade blasts and automatic weapons fire, he had escaped and was frantically searching for her. Had anyone seen a Filipino woman, he asked, as each survivor trickled from the four-storey building.

He was forced from the scene when British officers from the Metropolitan police anti-terror unit arrived to assist Kenyan authorities and pushed for a secure cordon around the mall. “My niece and I were basically frogmarched up the road,” he said. A good samaritan driving past recognised the bald Londoner from the crowds of survivors earlier in the day and offered him a lift to the house of a colleague from the Nairobi branch of the multinational bank where he has worked for the last two years. Like so many rescued, his phone had run out of power, cutting him off from any information about his missing wife. He asked for a lift home to collect a phone charger and his car so he could return and scour the crowds for Eva.

Arriving home, he found his wife waiting in the drive. She had been rescued by Kenyan police hours after he had escaped but had been unable to reach him as she could not recall his number.

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