Nairobi - The second round of the children's cooking contest
she was hosting had just started, the sun was out and she had just felt her
baby kicking when she heard what sounded like firecrackers.
Just seconds before the Nairobi mall attackers started their
rampage, Ruhila Adatia-Sood was in the prime of her life and enjoying a typical
family weekend three months before the arrival of a baby.
The contest was organised on the rooftop carpark of the
Westgate mall, one of the main gathering points in Nairobi for the Muslim
Ismaili community she belonged to.
Adatia-Sood and some of her friends were supervising 33
children who were toiling away in the open-air kitchen, each one having to
prepare a starter or a main dish to be followed by a dessert.
"We are super excited!! Do join us from 11 am onwards
for the 2nd round of Sungold Sunrice SuperChef Junior! See you there,"
Kamal Kaur, an East FM presenter, wrote on the radio's website ahead of the
The competition had barely begun, with a crowd of parents
and other people watching, when Kaur said they "started to hear popping
"We heard what sounded like firecrackers," she
said, recounting how the group then ran to the edge of the parking lot and
looked over to see people streaming out of the mall.
She then ran to find her son and they tried to get the
children out through the service entry of a cafe.
"One man shot at my son, but he managed to duck,"
Kaur said, describing a man wearing jeans, a black T-shirt, sunglasses and a
checkered keffiyeh headscarf wrapped around his head.
"He was holding a big automatic weapon, and I could see
a pistol sticking out of his pocket."
Eight-year-old Paramshu Jain was less fortunate. He was shot
at the competition, family members said. It wasn't yet clear by Friday how many
of the children at the competition were killed in all.
Mitul Shah, marketing director at the company sponsoring the
function, died "trying to rescue the children", his family said.
Nairobi's Ismaili Muslim community, a branch of Shia Islam,
flocked on Thursday to a funeral service for Adatia-Sood.
At least 2 500 people packed in a hangar-like structure at
the community's sports and social club to pay their last respects to the slain
radio host and another Ismaili woman killed in the attack, 44-year-old Shairoz
Mourners trooped in by the dozen, as those already assembled
chanted prayers, removed their shoes, and filed past the caskets before
separating into men on one side, women on the other.
Many of the women had covered their heads in white muslin
scarves. Some mourners carried rosaries.
"This is a very sad day. I have no words," said a
young man dressed in black who described himself as a friend of Ruhila's before
turning away to hide his emotions.
Adatia-Sood bled to death after being shot in the leg.
"We are a small community. In a tragedy like this we
get together," said Azym Dossa, a tall broad-shouldered man in a dark suit
who lent his fleet of coaches to ferry mourners across town.
"I go to Westgate on Sundays to have a capuccino,"
he went on.
"I can't sleep at night any more," said Shelina
Manji, a young woman in skinny jeans and stilettos who works in advertising.
"She and I were very good friends," Manji said
from behind oversized sunglasses. "When I heard the news I was in
shock," she said.
"Just before it happened Ruhila texted a friend to say
she could feel her baby kicking."