Sunday, 3 November 2013

On Saturday, September 21, the worst terrorist attack in recent years unfolded when al Qaeda-linked militants stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. At least 70 innocent men, women and children were massacred over the coming days as the hopelessly unprepared and poorly trained Kenyan security forces struggled to wrest control of the Westgate Mall from the grip of al Shabaab killers. However, the death toll would have been far higher if it was not for the heroic actions of a former Irish special forces soldier who is working as a security consultant in East Africa. As he continues his job we only know him as ‘Jack’
Jack's phone is always to hand, 24/7, as he stands ready to deal with the wide variety of crises synonymous with this turbulent continent. The former Irish Army Ranger squints at the curt half dozen words on the screen which minutes later would propel him into a terrifying hostage drama that would make headlines across the world. "Terrorist attack under way in Westgate Mall." The chilling message came from the security consultant's colleague, another former special forces soldier who happened to be in Kenya's most cosmopolitan shopping mall, just a 10-minute drive from Jack's office, when the hostage drama unfolded. Up to a dozen al Shabaab terrorists armed with machine guns and assault rifles had stormed into Westgate and began summarily executing men, women and children. Scrambling to his feet, Jack replied: "What? Now?". There was no doubt in the response. "Now". Twenty minutes later all that will stand between the Irishman and death will be his specialist military training – and a hint of good luck. He will dodge bullets and exchange gunfire with the terrorists who turn a busy shopping mall into a slaughter house. The narrative of this story could easily spring from the pages of an adrenaline-soaked Andy McNab thriller. But this is the real deal, in all its blood-soaked, terrifying detail. Eye witnesses, CCTV, text messages and press photographs all bear testimony to the outstanding bravery shown by the professional soldier and former Army Ranger during the Westgate Mall slaughter. Jack has been hailed a hero by experts who analysed his actions – and the hundreds of terrified shoppers and staff he risked his life to rescue on that fateful Saturday afternoon. But the modest security consultant dismisses his new-found status. In the Photograph Jack, in grey T-shirt on right centre of picture, helping the wounded in a canopied area of one of the Westgate Mall carparks

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