How brother rescued now-DPP nominee during Westgate terror attack

Noordin Mohamed Haji, the Director of Public Prosecutions nominee, was rescued from Westgate shopping mall by his brother Abdul Haji during a terror attack in the capital Nairobi on September 21, 2013.

When terrorists besieged the mall, Noordin was in the facility meeting a friend.

“I was here (Yaya Centre), having a business meeting, when I got an SMS from my brother,” Haji, a Kenyan Kenyan businessman, told the Guardian in a September, 2013 interview.

“He (Noordin) said he thought there was a terrorist attack at Westgate and he said ‘pray for me’… It was very confusing, it was like he was saying his last goodbyes.”

Haji, a then-38-year-old man, ran down to the basement parking and drove at supersonic speed to Westgate. “I broke all the traffic rules getting there but I made it,” he told the Guardian.

Haji said he feared for his brother’s life because Noordin had been outed on Kenyan TV as an undercover intelligence officer. Noordin had been receiving death threats, presumed to be from al-Shabaab.

After arriving at Westgate mall on September 21 – afternoon –, Haji was quickly thrown into the heart of a rescue operation that saved hundreds of shoppers long before the security forces proper took over.

“Suddenly everybody was armed (referring to Kenyan security officers),” Haji, himself a licensed firearms carrier, recalled to the Guardian. “Instinctively we decided to give cover to the Red Cross guys.”

The group decided to make their way to the mall’s rooftop parking, where many families – mostly women and children – had been attending an Indian cookery competition.

Shop by shop, Haji and the other men began to clear the mall. They spent up to an hour at every level ushering scores of terrified shoppers to safety.

But as the armed group descended to Westgate’s ground floor, where some of the worst violence had taken place, Haji noticed a woman hiding under a table.

The gunmen were just metres away from her and she was protected by little more than paper.

When Haji asked her to run towards him, she revealed that she had three children with her – two infants and a four-year-old. Three other women were hiding with them.

A Reuters photographer captured Haji in a widely circulated picture rescuing a 4-year-old girl during the terror attack.

Mr Haji, who managed to rescue his brother, Noordin, from the attack would, thereafter, remain behind to assist in rescue operations.

Today, Noordin is a few days away from succeeding Keriako Tobiko at the Office of the DPP should Parliament approve his nomination.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday nominated him as the Director of Public Prosecutions.

His name was forwarded to the National Assembly for vetting and approval on Tuesday.

Haji who has been serving as the Deputy Director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) last week made it to the final list of three shortlisted candidates who included Senior Counsel Lucy Kambuni and Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Jacob Ondari.

The candidates were listed by a panel headed by University of Nairobi law lecturer Elizabeth Muli, which concluded interviewing candidates for the job last Friday, March 9.


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