Canadians killed in mall attack mourned; Canada to close High Commission in Kenya
Published Sunday, September 22, 2013 7:10AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 22, 2013 11:10PM EDT
A second Canadian killed in an attack in an upscale mall in Kenya Saturday has been identified, while Canada will close its High Commission in Kenya.
Sources tell CTV News that Naguib Damji, a businessman from Vancouver, died in the attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
Damji, 59, was visiting a cousin in Nairobi and was in the mall when the deadly attack began, sources say. Family members were initially told he died of a heart attack.
The Canadian government said Saturday that Annemarie Desloges, a 29-year-old Canadian diplomat working in Kenya, also died in the attack, which began Saturday after Islamic militants stormed the mall.
The 29-year-old was stationed in Nairobi while working as a liaison officer with the Canadian Border Services Agency. She had been in Kenya for two years, and had previously worked at an embassy in New Delhi.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said Sunday that two other Canadians were also injured.
Somalia's al Qaeda-linked rebel group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Ottawa is now looking into allegations that one of the armed militants is a 24-year-old from Ontario, CTV News has learned.
An unverified Twitter account that claimed to be linked to al-Shabaab named one Canadian and six Americans in a list of those involved in the attack. The account has since been suspended, but the FBI is now actively investigating the claims.
While the reports are unconfirmed, Canadian officials have denounced the attack by Islamic militants that has left at least 68 dead and injured 175 others.
Speaking briefly to reporters in Woodbridge, Ont., Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Canadian government condemns “as strongly as we possibly can this cowardly act,” and offered his assurances that the government will do “everything we can to fight terrorism.”
He also said the thoughts and prayers of all Canadians are with victims’ family and friends and everyone affected by the attack.
In a statement released Saturday, Harper said acts of terror cannot be allowed "to go unpunished."
"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 read.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said security at Canadian diplomatic posts in Kenya has been heightened and he has offered Canada's sympathies and support in the fight against terrorism to his counterparts in the country.
"The fight against terrorism is the great struggle of our generation, and it does require us to collaborate together," Baird said during an event in Toronto on Sunday.
The government said late Sunday the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi will be closed on Monday.
The Canadian public service community mourned the loss of Desloges, who had been shopping with her husband, Robert Munk, at the time of the attack. Munk was injured, but has since been released from the hospital.
The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers said it was devastated by the loss of one of its members.
“Annemarie was one of our bright young lights, and hers was a career brimming with promise,” president Tim Edwards said in a statement. “Today we grieve the loss not only of a warm and intelligent friend and colleague, but a lifetime’s potential tragically unfilled.”
Edwards described Desloges, who came from a “foreign service family,” as a true professional who possessed a strong work ethic and expressed herself with poise and confidence beyond her years.
Meanwhile on Facebook, Damji was described as a “great” and “kind” man.
“I'll never forget the way his face would light up with joy when he told stories of our family's history and origins. A beautiful human being,” wrote one person.
Kenya’s military said late Sunday it had rescued most of the remaining hostages in the mall after security forces launched a “major assault” on the mall in order to end the two-day standoff between the Islamic militants and the Kenyan military.
In the wake of the Nairobi attack, Ottawa updated its travel advisory to Kenya to the highest level, warning foreigners to avoid public places for the next 24 to 48 hours.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press