Little Elliot Prior of Windsor, Berkshire was with his mother, Amber, and 6-year-old sister Amelie shopping at Nairobi's upscale Westgate Mall when militants from al-Shabaab
, a Somali group affiliated with al-Qaeda, began attacking and killing
shoppers and staff with small arms and grenades. About an hour into the attack, some of the militants barricaded themselves inside the Nakumatt supermarket, where Amber, 35, was queued up to buy milk. The film producer hid under a meat counter with her two children, but terrorists discovered them and shot her in the leg.
According to numerous news reports, that's when Elliot literally stood up to his attackers
. Uncle Alex Coutts told the Sun
that the brave young boy told one of the terrorists, "You're a bad man, let us leave."
Coutts says the terrorists then took pity on the family, with one of them handing Elliot and Amber Mars candy bars and asking their forgiveness.
"Please forgive me, we are not monsters," the gunman reportedly said.
that one of the terrorists told her that the Muslim faith "was not a bad one."
"He told me I had to change my religion to Islam and said, 'Do you forgive us? Do you forgive us?' Naturally, I was going to say whatever they wanted and they let us go," she said. Amber also took two other children with her as she fled the mall with Elliot and Amelie, including a wounded 12-year-old boy who at first refused to leave the side of his murdered mother. A photo
of Amber's children taken outside the mall in front of the corpse of one of the victims has appeared on numerous news sites.
"They had a lucky escape," Coutts said of his relatives and the other two children.
The mall attackers, who killed 62 people and injured scores more, with dozens still missing, seemed to be targeting non-Muslims. After the initial assault, the attackers fought with government security forces who began arriving on the scene after about an hour. Fighting continued throughout the night and throughout Sunday. The siege continued until Tuesday, when Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta took to the airwaves to declare
an end to the standoff. Kenyatta said that 61 civilians and six soldiers had been killed; various news outlets report three militants killed and 10 more captured.
The BBC reports at least 18 foreigners were killed by the terrorists. Six Britons, as well as citizens of Australia, Canada, China, France, Ghana, India, the Netherlands, Peru and South Africa are reportedly among the dead. Famed Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor
, 78, was among the dead, as was Elif Yavuz, a malaria specialist for former US President Bill Clinton's Clinton Global Initiative. Yavuz was nine months pregnant; her unborn child also died, as did her boyfriend.
Media reports claim the Somali militants chose to attack Kenya because Kenyan and Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia, with US and French support, in 2011 to support the Federal Transitional Government of Somalia from the growing threat of al-Shabaab and other Islamist militant groups. Many critics claim the Nairobi mall attack was predictable blowback
from the 2011 invasion.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed has stated
that a British woman and "two or three" Americans were among the terrorists who attacked the Westgate Mall. Mohamed told PBS NewsHour that the Americans originally came from Minnesota and Missouri.
"The Americans, from the information we have, are young men, about between maybe 18 and 19, of Somali or Arab origin," Mohamed told
Reports of a British woman leading the attackers have fueled speculation in the UK press that Samantha Lewthwaite
, also known as the 'White Widow,' wife of 7/7 London suicide bomber Jermaine Lindsey, was involved in the Nairobi attack.