September 22, 2013 - 5:33 AM
OTTAWA - A deadly terrorist attack at a major shopping mall in Kenya on Saturday has struck home in Canada with the death of two Canadians, including a 29-year-old diplomat who worked at the embassy.
The Prime Minister's Office identified the deceased diplomat as Annemarie Desloges, who worked with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and served at Canada's High Commission in Kenya as a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency.
"Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms this cowardly, hateful act that apparently targeted innocent civilians who were simply out shopping," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a written statement released Saturday evening.
"Terrorist attacks like this seek to undermine the very values and way of life that Canadians cherish, and they reinforce the need for us to continue taking strong actions to protect the safety of Canadians no matter where they are in the world."
The statement did not identify the other Canadian and it was not known whether or not the other Canadian was with Desloges at the time of the attack.
At least 39 people have been reported killed and more than 150 were wounded in the assault, announced Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta on national TV, while disclosing that his close family members were among the dead.
A separate joint statement from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney paid tribute to Desloges and to Canadian diplomats and the risks they run.
"Like Annemarie, they do so because they believe in the cause of humanity. They believe that their work will better the lives of many at home and around the world. They believe in the values that Canada represents. We have no doubt that Annemarie touched the lives of many, and it is for that, that she will always be remembered.”
Witnesses said at least five gunmen — including at least one woman — first attacked an outdoor cafe at Nairobi's Westgate Mall, a shiny, new shopping centre that includes Nike, Adidas and Bose stores. The mall's ownership is Israeli, and security experts have long said the structure made an attractive terrorist target.
France's president said that two French women were also killed in the attack. American citizens were reported injured but not killed in the attack, the U.S. State Department said Saturday, but did not release further details.
As the attack began shortly after noon Saturday, the al-Qaida-linked gunmen asked the victims they had cornered if they were Muslim. Those who answered yes were free to go, several witnesses said. The non-Muslims were not.
Somalia's Islamic extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility and says the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into Somalia.
(With files from the Associated Press)
News from © The Canadian Press , 2013