My 7-hour ordeal in the Westgate terror attack – DPP Noordin Haji

DPP Noordin Haji recently narrated how he was held under siege at West Gate mall after terrorists raided the premise on September 21, 2013 leaving many dead.

The attack was the second most deadly after its bombings in East Africa in 1998. At Westgate, sixty-seven people died, 150 were wounded over four days..

For seven hours Haji and others sheltered in a toilet. He constantly fed information to security sources about the siege and tried to calm the panicked people with him. He’s sorry didn’t have his gun.

For the first time, Haji has spoken about the Westgate ordeal in an exclusive interview with the Star, one that sheds light on the man, his resourcefulness and determination. He called it the lowest moment in his life.

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DPP Noordin Haji
DPP Noordin Haji

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This is his story:

Haji, then a director at the National Intelligence Service responsible for counter-terrorism, had gone to Westgate to buy gifts for his counterparts in Sudan. He was headed there for a series of meetings.

“After shopping at Nakumatt on ground floor, I went to the washroom when I heard gunshots rending the air. Having been on the front line in Somalia for years, I immediately knew this was a terror attack.

A few of us ran to the nearby toilet where I then informed my father, my brother Abdul Haji and my colleagues in the security sector that a terror attack was unfolding.”

“I’m stuck at the Westgate. Seems like a terrorist attack. Pray for me,” was the message Haji sent to his father, Garissa senator Yusuf Haji, and his younger brother Abdul.

Abdul Haji was in Yaya Centre when he got the message and immediately ran down to the basement parking, driving at breakneck speed to Westgate.

“I broke all the traffic rules getting there but I made it. All I wanted was to save those trapped inside, including my brother Noordin,” Abdul recalled. He himself rescued two women and three children amidst the gunfire — those photos went viral.

The gifted spy chief Haji — an ethnic Somali and observant Muslim — risked his own life to save others as security chiefs leading the operations relied on him to communicate what was going on inside the mall.

wpid-kenya-has-been-hit-by-a-string-of-attacks-by-somali-led-and-al-qaeda-affiliated-shebab-rebels-who-two-years-ago-attacked-nairobis-westgate.jpg
Westgate Mall,Westlands

“We were quite a number who ended up in the washroom and tried to find a place where we could shelter. I got rid of my wallet, I put it in the ceiling, hoping that if they came in they would not recognise me.”

He and the others planned how they could help other people if the terrorists stormed in. Haji recounts this in his characteristically modest manner.

For seven hours Haji kept communicating with various security agencies who were battling the attackers, some who were stationed outside Nakumatt.

“At some point I thought they were coming for me because a few weeks before the attack KTN’s Jipo Pevu had splashed my pictures all over, describing me as an an undercover intelligence officer. It said I had been receiving death threats, presumably from al Shabaab,” Haji told the Star.

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Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Hajji during an interview with The Star. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

 At last Haji escaped from his hiding place when he smelled tear gas [assuming it came from the police, not the attackers] after the security forces had arrived — but not before he saw many bodies, the floor awash in blood.

“The saddest thing is that I didn’t have a gun. I felt a bit helpless but then I was used to gunfire and carrying a gun in my line of duty.

When we went to Kismayo as we were negotiating a peace deal with different Somali factions there, we always under attack. We were always within firing range and because of that when I was caught at Westgate I was a bit calmer. I tried to calm down the others sheltering in the toilet,” the DPP said.

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‘If I’m destined to die on a certain day, nothing can change that’ Says DPP Noordin Haji as he confesses on being sent threats by Al Shabaab

Deputy Public Prosecutor Noordin Haji is winning the love of many Kenyans for his zeal to fight corruption at a time where its at its peak.

But it has not been a smooth ride as he has faced death threats even from Al Shabaab,in a candid interview with the Nairobian he says

“I have received threats, but this is not the first time. I worked with the NIS (National Intelligence Service) and I received threats from the Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda. They used to threaten even my family.

Those threats still exist. Al-Shabaab actually renewed their threats against me. But there have also been subtle threats, like bringing up my father’s name in the National Land Commission case. How come that issue was not raised before the NLC officers were charged?”

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Despite the threats Haji says that he will keep doing what he is supposed to do since he believes in God and his divine protection.

“It is a way of telling me to go slow or drop the cases. But I want to make it very clear that I believe in God, and only God can determine my destiny. So, if I’m destined to die on a certain day, nothing and no one can change that.

We all have an expiry date and frankly, if I have to die for this cause, then so be it. Nothing would be more fulfilling. I am determined to see this to the end, for God and for my country.”

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DPP Haji orders fresh probe into death of KU student Maureen Wambui

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji has ordered a fresh probe into a case in which Maureen Wambui died after she was run over by a prisons officer.

Prior to her death on the 15th on July, Maureen was from a party near Next-Gen Mall only to meet her death as she and her boyfriend Dennis Wambugu crossed the road.

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The late Maurren

According to Wambui’s boyfriend Dennis Baragu, who witnessed the crash,  Sergeant Dismas Motogwa Gitenge drove to South C with the body on the roof of his vehicle after the hit run incident.

He later dumped the body almost three kilometres away from the accident spot, to her family and friends Maureen was a jovial girl and she was looking forward to having her baby.

Her sister Ruth Njoki also described her as a loving young lady who didn’t deserve to die too young.

“We feel we’ve lost our baby. We used to call her our baby because she was the last born. It’s so touching because no one would ever think she came last and left first.”

The family and her schoolmates are demanding for justice using the hashtag #JusticeforMaureen and we hope the long arm of the law is going to work efficiently.

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Kenyatta University students held a vigil night for Maureen Wambui and a post on one of the Facebook  pages read:

“A candlelight vigil in memory of our departed classmate #MaureenWambui

Maureen Wambui, a KU third year,Gender and Development Studies student lost her life on Sunday morning through ‘a hit and run’ road accident on Mombasa Road where she was hit and dumped by an overspeeding senior police warder’s car, who later rushed to report @Industrial area police station claiming that he’d hit a cow and not a human being, later released on a cash bail.

The body of Maureen has today been transferred to KU morgue from city mortuary. As the case is still in court and burial plans underway, we(Maureen’s classmates and family members) request every member of the public to join us in pushing for justice to be done for our departed colleague through every social media.
Get to all social media platforms and Post, Tweet, Retweet, Comment, like and share under the hashtag *#JusticeForMaureen.”

Here is a photo from the vigil

Kenyatta University students hold vigil for Maureen Wambui

Police tried to protect one of their own from facing justice by excluding Maureen’s boyfriend from the witness list, misguiding her family on when the mentioning of the case would be and even entering wrong details on the charge sheet and the OB.

According to The Star, the officer attached to Nairobi West Prison was identified using his vehicle’s number plate. Director or Public Prosecution Noordin Haji is taking the matter seriously.

A tweet from his office read

“The DPP is giving the matter due attention. Appropriate directions will be given,” 

Gitenge appeared at the Milimani Law Courts on July 16. He was charged with causing death through careless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and failing to report that he had committed a crime.

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The suspect pleaded not guilty to the first two charges and was fined Sh10,000 for the third charge, he was released on a Sh50,000 cash bail.

The family fears there is a conspiracy by police officers to let off their colleague on lighter charges, and feel the offence of driving with the body on his car and trying to conceal the crime should have been included in the charge sheet.

“We want him charged for that because it carries more weight,” Wambui’s brother Simon Ndiragu said.

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