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U.S. pledges more support as Kenya marks 1st year after Westgate attack

22 September 2014, 08:01

Nairobi - The United States said Sunday it would continue to provide support and more assistance for increased security measures in Kenya as the east African nation marks the first anniversary of the Westgate Mall attack.

Hooded gunmen attacked the building from the second floor of the shopping mall on September 21 2013, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200 others.

In its statement issued in Nairobi, the U.S. said it remains committed to the 50-year partnership with Kenya and stand together in the fight against terrorism.

"In the face of the despicable attack, the Kenyan government and people stood firm and maintained their resolve. A shared commitment to freedom, democracy, rule of law, and respect for human life remains the best and strongest response to Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups," said U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec. "I once again express my deepest sympathy to everyone who suffered from this senseless act of violence and I join Kenyans and many others around the world in remembering those who lost their lives," he said.

Survivors and their families on Sunday held interdenominational prayers at the Westgate Mall to commemorate the day. A tree planting exercise and commemorative run also took place at the Karura forest.

Normal operations were disrupted at all regional retail chains of Nakumatt stores at noon, as workers observed a minute of silence in memory of the departed souls and victims of the terror attack. The prayers were led by respective Nakumatt branch chaplains and catechists, and were also opened to members of the public. "The events on that fateful Saturday midmorning are still very painful and the entire Nakumatt fraternity took off on Sunday to say our memorial prayers to seek God's comfort, global peace, love and harmony," said Nakumatt Holdings Managing Director Atul Shah

The country's largest retail chain, which also has branches in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda suffered the loss of three of its staff members who were fatally shot at the mall.

The retailer also lost its flagship Nakumatt Westgate branch to a mysterious fire just days after the terror attack.

The first anniversary was marked amid tight security around the country. Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo assured the country of heightened security as majority of Kenyans kept off social places on Sunday for fear of being attacked.

Kimaiyo said more police officers have been deployed to patrol strategic areas, particularly in Nairobi, Mombasa and the counties entry points.

Police officers countrywide are under instructions to be extra vigilant to ensure security is not compromised. "I have instructed officers countrywide to work around the clock to ensure the safety of our people, institutions and key installations is not compromised," Kimaiyo told journalists in Nairobi on Saturday.

Also read: Westgate survivor vows to return once repairs are complete

He said the 2013 Westgate mall attack had very negative effects that affected a number of key sectors such as tourism, which is still trying to restore their full operational capacities. "The act is now behind us, but our solidarity sent a signal to our enemies that no matter what, we won't be distracted by their cowardly acts," Kimaiyo said.

 - Xinhua

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