Kenya announces plans to reopen Nairobi mall after attack


NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s Westgate mall, the scene of a four-day siege in late 2013 that left dozens dead, will reopen to the public in July for the first time since the attack, officials said on Monday.

The announcement came after officials toured the Westgate site, once a symbol of Kenya’s growing wealth and cosmopolitan flair, and later of the security threat posed by the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab.

“Terrorism could have maimed and killed our loved ones but they did not succeed in killing our spirit and resolve to rebuild,” Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said in a statement.

“I will ensure the mall is restored to its former glory.”

A spokeswoman for Kidero said the high-end mall in the capital would formally open its doors to the public on July 1, but shops, cafes and restaurants would not start up again until some months later.

A spokesman for the company charged with the rebuilding did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At least 67 people were killed in September 2013 when al Shabaab gunman stormed Westgate, tossing grenades, spraying shoppers with bullets and holding parts of the building for days.

Live images from the scene, including smoke pouring from its roof, were broadcast around the world.

In the 18 months since the attack, al Shabaab has regularly hit Kenya. Gunmen took over a bus in Kenya’s remote northeast last November and executed 28 non-Muslim passengers.

The group says the attacks are in response to Kenya’s deployment of troops in an African Union-led force that has been beating back the militants in Somalia.

The attacks have battered Kenya’s safari and beach tourism industry. European nations, the United States and Australia have issued travel advisories cautioning their citizens from visiting parts of the country due to the security threats.

Last week, Britain toughened its warning, telling them to avoid most resorts on the coast, including the region’s main airport at Mombasa.

Kenya’s government has criticised the warnings, saying its security forces are thwarting attacks.