Nairobi's Westgate Mall, which was the center of a deadly extremist attack in 2013, is set to reopen Saturday, Kenyan authorities said Tuesday. The mall has been renovated extensively after militant group al-Shabab killed 67 people in the four-day siege that ended on Sept. 24, 2013.
The mall, once reportedly considered a symbol of Kenya’s growing affluence, was ruined by the terrorist attack. "Exactly 22 months ago we had one of the saddest days in Kenyan history," Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero told reporters Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse. "As a nation we cried, we mourned but ... Westgate is back."
Kidero hoped that people would return to the mall, adding that each shop would be reopened, the Associated Press reported. Nairobi is safe and the upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama for a summit in the city on July 24 served as a testimony to the country's security, he reportedly said.
According to a report by Reuters, a private Israeli company named I.R.G. has been tasked with ramping up the mall's security. The company has about 25 specialist staff and will also use about 55 guards from a Kenyan security firm G4S. The mall will reportedly have new safety features such as explosive detectors, luggage X-rays, scanners to check underneath cars, bollards to prevent car bombs, and bullet-proof guard towers.
"This will be the safest mall in the world," Cohen, an I.R.G. employee who did not give his full name, told Reuters.
Among those returning to the mall is Charlse Kimondo, a worker at an upscale Kenyan supermarket chain Nakumatt, who was in a storeroom at the time of the terrorist attack, according to the AP. He reportedly said he heard gunshots and screams, and managed to escape the carnage. However, because of the shock of the massacre he went through counseling sessions to overcome the ordeal.
Top Western brands such as Subway, KFC and Converse also reportedly plan to open stores in the Westgate Mall alongside Nakumatt. The reopening of the mall will likely revive the job market in the country, Reuters reported.