by Christine Lagat and Peter Mutai
NAIROBI, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- The terrorists who attacked the Westgate shopping mall on Saturday seemed to have learned their dark arts from a first rate action movie based on the magnitude of human casualty, panic and general malaise that followed immediately.
Kenya was once again on the global spotlight when heavily armed assailants stormed into Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi at noon and rained terror on shoppers, workers and onlookers.
Eye witnesses told a battery of local and foreign journalists that the well coordinated terrorist attack was carried out by about 10 hooded men.
The noon orgy of violence at one of Nairobi's most prestigious shopping mall located in an up market district of the Kenyan capital put the East African nation on edge as a mounting toll of the dead and injured was broadcast live in the national media.
Thousands of shoppers from across the racial and economic divide were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as the vicious attackers trained their powerful ammunition on them.
"It was a scene from hell, as the frightened and wounded shoppers scattered everywhere in search of safety. Everyone cowed in fear as the powerful sound of gun fire reverberated inside the mall," a frightened shopper tweeted.
The attackers timed their heinous activity on Saturday when Westgatel is full to the brim.
The Somalia militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the vicious attack which has so far claimed at least 59 lives and 175 injuries.
Survivors recounted how the Supermarket aisles were a sea of humanity slightly before the attacks, while coffee joints and gift shops were full to capacity as the mainly wealthy clients sampled their favorite items on offer.
"It is hard to quantify the number of people who were inside the mall during the attacks, but a conservative figure of five thousands would be appropriate. The world came tumbling before our eyes as the hooded assailants shot randomly at anyone on sight. The wailing and anguish among the wounded will never be deleted from our memory," an anonymous survivor tweeted.
Courageous survivors who spoke to the media gave a blow by blow account of how it all started as heavily armed men in fatigue jackets alighted from a small vehicle and stormed into Westgate shopping mall.
"These men covered their faces with black hoods and their actions thereafter turned the entire place upside down. The sound of grenades and gunfire could shatter our eardrums. We lied flat on our bellies and the lucky few crawled their way out through narrow openings," Daniel Musili, a supermarket attendant said.
Frightened survivors trapped inside the mall tweeted about their predicament while others made frantic calls to relatives, friends and colleagues to update them on progress of rescue efforts.
Local journalists on the scene who spoke to Xinhua on phone gave a candid but graphic account of suffering, pain and confusion as wounded survivors crawled their way to safety, while a standoff between the inter-agency rescue mission and the assailants cast a dark cloud.
"The sight of mothers crawling as they tightly held their babies was gory. To make matters worse, even able bodied individuals who survived the terror were too frightened to lend any help," a Kenyan print journalist told Xinhua on phone.
He counted dozens of wounded survivors crawling on the drive way to safety while ambulance sirens echoed from far distances as rescue operation reached a crescendo.
The social media was abuzz with activity soon after the terrorist attack at Westgate shopping mall.
A troll through blogosphere by Xinhua revealed how tech-savvy Kenyans have exploited the power of social media platforms to tell phenomenal events in the country.
"Westgate under siege, hard to tell the number of the dead and injured. The situation fluid but superb response from security forces is quite reassuring. Let's be patient as more information about the attacks filter in," tweeted an individual using an acronym, JK.
Minutes after the terrorist attacks at Westgate shopping mall, rescue mission comprising security forces, paramedics and volunteers mounted a major operation to save lives and calm the situation.
Senior government officials oversaw the rescue mission while paramedics were on the standby to attend to wounded survivors.
Kenya's Interior Ministry gave real time updates of the rescue efforts while reassuring the public that the situation was under control.
By Sunday morning, the Westgate shopping mall remained a no go zone as rescue operation got underway.