Kenya holds inter-faith mall prayers

Kenya’s top Christian, Hindu and Muslim clerics are leading a multi-faith prayer service for the victims of the Westgate mall attack.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga are attending the prayers.

Officials say 67 people died after militants from Somalia’s al-Shabab stormed the mall on 21 September.

On Monday, Kenyan MPs called for camps for Somali refugees in the country to close in the wake of the siege.Al-Shabab, a Somali Islamist group, said the attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.

Kenya is host to the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab – home to about half a million people – near the Somali border, while it is believed that more than 30,000 Somali refugees live in Nairobi alone.

‘United in prayer’
The prayers are being hosted by Kenya’s Inter-Religious Council with clerics from different faiths, who are sitting together on a stage facing the congregation, calling for national unity, reconciliation and healing.

During the service in the capital, Nairobi, Bishop Gerry Kibarabara asked the congregation to stand, shake hands and say “peace”.

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Kenya: Major attacks

1998: US embassy in Nairobi bombed, killing 224 people – one of al-Qaeda’s first international attacks
2002: Attack on Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa kills 10 Kenyans. Simultaneous rocket attack on an Israeli airliner fails
2011: Suspected al-Shabab militants raid Kenyan coastal resorts and a refugee camp, targeting and kidnapping foreigners
2011: Kenya sends troops into Somalia to tackle al-Shabab
2011-13: Numerous grenade attacks near Somali border and in Nairobi
How the attack happened
The victims
Horror and heroism
Westgate tragedy unites Kenyans
The prayers are being broadcast live on all national television stations, with private broadcaster NTV labelling the transmission “United in Prayer” along with the hashtag #WeAreOne, which some Kenyans have been using on social media in response to the attack.

Children from different religious and ethnic groups have read messages of peace to the congregation.

Adan Wachu, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims, said: “Islam is not terrorism and terrorism is not Islam. Islam is peace.”

Another religious leader said that religion had been “misused” and the intention of the clerics on the Inter-Religious Council was to eliminate such “misconceptions”.

Five militants were killed by security forces during the four-day siege, while nine people are in custody after being arrested in connection with the attacks, the authorities say.

On Monday, the Kenyan Red Cross said the number of missing after the Westgate shopping centre attack had dropped to 39 from an initial figure of 61.

Fourteen of the missing have been found alive and seven bodies have been identified, it said.

A Red Cross tracing manager told the BBC that some of those who were classed as missing were counted because of “reports from people who could not get through to their relatives on the phone and thought they might have been at the mall”.

About 4,000 Kenyan troops have been sent to Somalia to help pro-government forces end two decades of violence, with clan-based warlords and Islamist militants all battling for control of the country.

Al-Shabab is banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK and is believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters.

Its members are fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.

Graphic: Final phase