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Kenyan Catholic leaders praise citizen reaction during hostage crisis

Civilians escaping the Westgate mall in Nairobi (CNS)

As Kenyan security forces worked to bring an end the siege at the shopping mall in Nairobi, the nation’s Catholic leaders praised their fellow citizens for displaying “Kenyan spirit”.

In a statement released on Monday, two days after the attack and hostage crisis began, the bishops praised security officers for their service, ordinary Kenyans for donations of blood, and “the sacrifices of those working in health services; all who have volunteered in any way to save the lives of our brothers and sisters in danger.”

The statement said Catholics sent condolences to all Kenyans, “especially those who have lost loved ones and friends in the Westgate (mall) hostage crisis. It is a time of great pain and sorrow for all Kenyans as the innocent people brutally lose their lives.”

Extremists from al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaida, stormed Nairobi’s Westgate mall on Sunday, throwing grenades and firing on civilians. Kenyan authorities described the extremists as “a multinational collection from all over the world.”

At least 68 people were killed and at least 175 injured. The Church statement was signed by Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, Kenya, vice president of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.