Kenya (MNN) — Tensions remain high as horrifying details on last week’s attack at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall emerge and more threats are issued.
Though nothing had yet been independently verified, a report from Kenyan newspaper The Star of al-Shabaab militants torturing their hostages during the four-day siege circulated rapidly on Friday and was picked up by multiple news agencies.
The report quotes a forensic doctor involved in helping police clear the Westgate Mall, and describes unspeakable acts of torture performed on victims. Meanwhile, Reuters tells of new al-Shabaab threats declared via Twitter.
“The mesmeric performance by the #WestgateWarriors was undoubtedly gripping, but despair not folks, that was just the premiere of Act 1,” the group tweeted.
Last week’s mall massacre slaughtered nearly 70 people, including friends of the prison ministry Crossroad Bible Institute (CBI). Crossroad’s President Dr. David Schuringa says a vital friend of CBI Kenya was wounded in the mall massacre, and two of his children were killed.
“It seems like we’re hearing about disasters and shootings and stuff every day on the news, you know? And the danger of that is that you can get kind of numb to it all,” Schuringa says.
“But, when it’s real live people that you know, then you realize this is terrible, this is awful stuff, that people are being killed and children are being killed.”
Another CBI Kenya ministry partner says their cousin was taken hostage by al-Shabaab terrorists.
“Continue to remember us in your prayers,” requests Jefferson Gathu, director of CBI Kenya.
Violence and severe instability surrounding the Westgate Mall attacked forced Gathu and his family to flee Nairobi last week.
“He needed to get out of the area with his family, because he lived pretty close by that mall there,” Schuringa explains.
“They were just right in the thick of it.”
A U.S. woman and her five children also escaped the terror unscathed. Philip and Katherine Walton credit God for protecting their family during the attack.
“It defies logic that they survived but we’re a family of deep faith and take a lot of comfort from knowing that God protected them,” they told The Telegraph, a UK news agency.
Not knowing what awaited them, Katherine Walton took her five children — Blaise, 14; Ian, 10; Portia, 4; Gigi, 2; and Petra 13 months — to Westgate Mall for a casual Saturday afternoon. As the siege began and the Waltons’ world quickly turned upside-down, Katherine describes a scenario to the Associated Press that only could’ve been written by the Lord.
She and the three little girls had taken cover with two other women behind a promotional table as heavily-armed terrorists roamed the mall and indiscriminately fired round after round. On separate occasions, Katherine says she and the girls were hiding in plain view, and yet were never seen.
A gunman on a higher floor locked eyes with her, but didn’t shoot, Katherine tells AP reporter Jason Straziuso.
“I swear he looked down and saw us but he just backed up and disappeared,” she states.
Two more walked close to where the family was hiding, but didn’t go quite far enough to see them behind the temporary sales display where they had taken cover.
“I don’t know how they couldn’t have heard,” Katherin said. “My 13-month-old, every time the bullets started going, she screamed and screamed and screamed, and the sound echoed and echoed and echoed.”
She credits God for keeping the family safe.
“I know that He did, because how could we have been so in plain view and not to have been seen?” Katherin told The Associated Press. “One of the more intense thoughts was this voice inside my head: ‘They’re not here to hurt you.’”
Though Scripture says God never leaves us, it seems He is closest in times of crisis.
“Our faith sustains us, and our faith brings us through,” states Schuringa. “And, we realize ultimately, God is in control.”
Please cover CBI and the nation of Kenya in prayer as this crisis continues. Pray for peace and stability, and that the message of salvation is lifted up.
“Only in the cross is there hope, so the main thing is to be praying that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the cross be lifted up, because that’s the only way that peace can come,” says Schuringa.
In addition, CBI Kenya is raising financial support for families of their partners who have suffered loss. If you’d like to help, send support through CBI headquarters at the following address:
Crossroad Bible Institute
P.O. Box 900
Grand Rapids, MI 49509-0900
Be sure to include a note designating your gift for CBI Kenya and the Westgate Mall emergency.
“If they bring it to us and designate it for that field, we’ll make sure that it goes to that field,” says Schuringa.