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Indian origin businessmen biggest losers in Nairobi

By Maina Waruru, Nairobi, Sep 24 : Kenyan businessmen of Indian origin are emerging as the biggest losers of the Nairobi mall terror attack, with the community suffering loss of lives as well as millions of dollars in destroyed businesses and lost opportunities.


The community has so far lost 10 members, including three Indian nationals as confirmed by deputy high commissioner of India to Kenya Tanmaya Lal.

"The country (India) has lost three nationals in the Westgate mall attack," Lal told IANS over phone adding that "all the details concerning the victims are available on the website of the Indian ministry of External affairs".

He could not, however, say whether nine Gujarati Indians had died in the mall raid staged by the Al Shabaab terror group based in neighbouring war-ravaged Somalia.

With the siege on the mall entering the fourth day Tuesday, the up-market area dominated by Indians remained out of bounds to the public, occasioning huge losses to Indian-owned business.

The mall holds more than 80 shops, cafes, banks and gyms, and the leading Nakumatt supermarkets owned by the Shah family of third generation Indians and where a fire was reported to be burning since Monday night.

Over 90 percent of the businesses at the mall are owned by Indians as happens in majority of wealthy areas of the capital of the East African country.

Among the dead are employees of Bank of Baroda and Paramount Bank, both owned by Kenyan-Indians.

Paramount Bank CEO Ayaz Merali lost his wife Salima Ayaz Merali and young daughter Nuriannu Ayaz Merali.

Also among the dead is an employee of Bank of Baroda, Malti Ramesh Vaya.

Bidco oil refineries, one of the biggest cooking fat makers in East Africa and owned by Vimal Shah, also lost senior employee Mitul Amritlal Shah.

Also confirmed dead is Lalit Kumar Solanki, a popular TV cooking show host.

In New Delhi, India's external affairs ministry Tuesday said another Indian, Sudharshan B. Nagaraj from Bangalore, was among those killed. This raises to three the number of Indians killed in the attack.

"The toll of Indian citizens killed in Westgate attack rises. Sudharshan B. Nagaraj from Bangalore sadly identified as among those killed. He was in the book trade and had only come to Nairobi on Sep 20," said the ministry.

The Indian high commission in Nairobi, it said, was in touch with Nagaraj's next of kin and associates to repatriate his mortal remains.

Earlier, Sridhar Natarajan, 40, from Tamil Nadu, and Paramshu Jain, eight, the son of Bank of Baroda's Nairobi branch manager, were identified as among those killed by Islamist Al Shabab militants.

As the Islamist militants continued holding on to the mall for the fourth day, Kenyan military reported that three of the 11 soldiers injured in a gunfight with the attackers had died.

"As the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), we mourn the loss of three of our officers who succumbed to injuries sustained as they battled the raiders," said military spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna.

Confusion, in the meantime, reigned with conflicting reports that the army had taken over the entire building, while others indicated that six terrorists had been gunned down.

However, sporadic gunfire could be heard from the mall all day Tuesday and a scheduled address to the national by President Uhuru Kenyatta was postponed to a later date.

(Maina Waruru can be reached at mainawaruru@gmail.com)

--IANS (Posted on 24-09-2013)

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