On Saturday, 21 September 2013, four masked gunmen attacked the upmarket Westgate mall, throwing grenades and firing shoppers at shoppers indiscriminately.

More than 80 hours later, the attack left more than 60 people dead and dozens others with severe injuries. Six years on, this remains one of the shocking attacks in the city.

Hundreds of Kenyans, foreigners and high profile personalities including President Uhuru Kenyatta’s kin were victims of the attack. Brave police officers were hailed for putting their lives at risk to save the situation.

But the brave officers were not feted despite reports to the contrary, neither were they honoured with Silver Star medals as had been promised.

At the time, Chief Inspector Stephen Lelei, Sergeant Tawfiq Baya, Sergeant Aden Iya and Constable Benjamin Chemjor gave Kenyans hope as they rescued trapped victims and other survivors.

Stephen Lelei

Stephen Lelei, a former Kabete OCS, for instance, was among those who arrived at the mall and managed to rescue high-profile figures trapped at various floors before another team from the Kenya Defence Forces arrived.

Lelei was shot and injured in the foot by the terrorists during the operation. He had received a distress call from taxi drivers who knew him from previous missions. Benjamin Chepnjor was filmed as he carried a child in one hand and a gun in the other, while a woman crouched behind him as he led them out of the mall to safety.

Benjamin Chepnjor

Businessman Abdul Haji had gone in search of his brother who had texted him that he was trapped in the mall. Armed with a pistol he joined the rescue operation. A police officer identified as Noor was shot in the stomach as he attempted to rescue some of the trapped victims in the mall.

Other officers who arrived at the scene were sergeants Iya Aden and Tawfiq Baya, both captured in several pictures dashing out with children to safety.

A senior officer who served during the time said that there were plans to honour the officers, including being promoted, but that never happened.

“I salute them for the good job, that’s how police are supposed to serve. There were several promises from various quarters, including promotions and awards. It is unfortunate that undeserving people get rewarded handsomely, but our heroes are ignored,” said a source. Our source added that: “I hope the current leadership will follow up on the promises because some of the heroes were maimed and are unwell to date.”


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