When Shashikant Sanghani stepped into the Westgate Mall on Saturday, little did he know what he was walking in to. The Gujarati-origin Kenyan stepped into seven long hours of captivity as a hostage by militants of the al-Qaeda-linked al Shabab group that has kept the building under siege for three days now.
A day before the attacks, Shashikant’s elder brother Praful had landed in Ahmedabad to participate in Pragatya Mahotsav at the Bochasanwasi Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple in Maninagar.
“On Saturday, Shashikant called me from inside the mall and told me that he was being held captive by the militants. I immediately went to Acharya Purushottam Priyadasji Maharaj and put him on speakerphone. Maharaj told him to keep calm and pray to stay safe. We were all worried till he called us to inform that he had been rescued,” recalls the elder brother, who breathed a sigh of relief when he heard from his brother.
Speaking to dna from Nairobi, Shashikant recounts the horror of that day. “They came from the basement of the mall and started firing in all directions. Within minutes, the floor was littered with bodies. Whoever survived was running helter-skelter in search of cover; it was pure chaos,” he said. He said the militants, clad in bullet-proof vests, were using high-tech weapons.
“Some of them were also wearing burqas so it appeared that a woman was ordering the 12-person team. They started moving up each floor and slaying anyone that came in their path. I remembered Maharaj’s words and found a place to hide. After the firing had stopped, I made for run for the exit. Those were the scariest seven hours of my life!” says the NRG.
(Inputs: Kalpit Bhachech)