CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom – For 17-year-old Africa Simpson, the terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya last week hit close to home.
That’s because Simpson, a student at Impington Village College in Impington, Cambridge, relocated to the United Kingdom from Kenya only a few weeks ago.
The attack by Westgate Premier Shopping Mall that began a week ago and lasted several days, left more than 60 people dead, including children.
The Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, an ally of Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the assault. It began when a group of terrorists entered the building on Saturday morning, Sept. 21 and started shooting.
The mall, said Simpson, is located on a Nairobi street that is full of shops.
Simpson said she was shocked that a place she thought was safe, like a little bubble, was not anymore.
Her first thoughts after hearing about the attack, she said, were of her friends and their loved ones in Kenya. She said she prayed they were not hurt or involved in any way.
Following news reports and updates on Facebook, Simpson learned that the mother of a former classmate was among those killed. She said several other people she used to know were in the mall but managed to escape.
Simpson said that Kenya is at war with Somalia and that the attack on the mall was likely in retaliation for the advances Kenya had made against Somali troops. She said she thinks al-Shabab is also responsible for burning the airport in Nairobi in early August.
Those who committed these crimes aren’t human in Simpson’s view. She said while she is not “an eye for an eye” kind of person, she thinks they should be punished.
It’s the first time, she said, that she knows what it feels like for her country to be attacked from another nation.
While Kenya has had internal conflicts in the past, Simpson said, and was nearly split in half from the inter-tribal war a few years ago, the nation has come together after the Westgate assault.
The attack, she said, brought Kenyans a lot closer and they are standing together as one country.
Everyone is helping, Simpson said, by donating blood or whatever they can to contribute. That makes her happy, she said, as does the moral support the country is getting from people worldwide. She said she appreciates those who put a Kenyan flag as their Facebook profile picture.
Kenya is a very lively place, said Simpson, who has fond memories of her homeland.
The country is covered with several large open forests, she said, and despite a huge disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the people are happy.
What she remembers most, Simpson said, is the dusty road where she used to live, complete with roaming dogs.
“I just loved it,” she said.