NAIROBI, Kenya — An Elizabeth City woman was among the hundreds of people trapped in a mall in Nairobi, Kenya that came under siege over the weekend by an al-Qaida-linked militant group.
At least 68 people were killed and 175 injured in the two-day attack inside Westgate Mall by Somalia's
al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the attack that specifically targeted non-Muslims, saying it was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.
Bendita Malakia is thankful to be alive.
"You could hear them methodically kind of going from store to store talking to people, asking questions, shooting (and then hearing screams)," Malakia said Sunday via Skype., "Then, it would stop for a while, and then, they would go to another store."
The 30-year-old moved from Elizabeth City to Nairobi in July to work for a financial company.
Malakia remembers seeing the gunmen running in while she was having lunch.
"We stood up, and we started to turn, and then, we heard machine guns," she said. "Then, we started to run and there was a second explosion, which knocked us on the ground."
She and a friend found a place to hide.
While the ordeal was happening, Malakia's mother, Lue Malakia, watched the news, waiting for word from her daughter.
"I couldn't get to her," she said. "I couldn't make the wrongs right."
After more than four hours, Bendita Malakia and others were rescued by American Security Forces and the Kenyan army.
For the whole family, those were four hours that seemed to last forever.
"You could hear people that had been shot. They were in pain," Lue Malakia said.
"We were on the ground and easily accessible," Bendita Malakia said. "I think part of it was luck. We did a lot of praying in there."