Vancouver man caught in crossfire of Kenya mall attack laid to rest

West Vancouver businessman Nagib Damji was killed when he was caught in the crossfire at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Nick Procaylo/PNG

JENNY LEE
POSTMEDIA NEWS

As the shrouded white coffin of Vancouver businessman Nagib Damji passed on bearers’ shoulders, the congregation repeatedly sang a soothingly hypnotic Salwaat, or prayer, for Damji, one of two Canadians who died in a weekend terrorist attack in Kenya that killed at least 68.

About 400 people attended the ceremony at the Burnaby Ismaili Centre to commemorate Damji, 59, who was having a coffee at ArtCaffe in the Westgate Shopping Mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi last weekend when he was caught in a crossfire.

Damji’s family released a statement Friday, describing him as “a loving husband, cherished father of three daughters, a brother, a son and a good friend to many.” They noted his “vivacious, kind-hearted, gregarious” nature and his “magnetic personality and a great love for people, especially his family.”

In keeping with Muslim tradition, the funeral ceremony itself was all about a community coming together in support rather than a celebration of individuality. Muslims believe that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, so all funerals are identical with the same prayers, rites and ceremonies. Continuous prayers are recited for the soul of the deceased from the moment the death is known until funeral ceremonies are complete.

Men and women sat separately Friday, mostly cross-legged on the floor, and sang continuous prayers for about an hour.

The family has set up a donation page for Damji’s favourite charity, The Aga Khan Foundation, which helps improve the living conditions of poor people in Asia and Africa.

(Those who wish to donate can do so by visiting www.akfcnet community.ca/netcommunity/tribute-gifts/2013/tribute-in-memory-of-late-naguib-damji)

Damji and the other Canadian were killed as gunmen used AK-47 assault rifles and threw grenades at Nairobi’s upscale Westgate mall, a venue frequented by expatriates and wealthy locals. Officials said the other Canadian killed was diplomat Annemarie Desloges, who worked at the Canadian embassy in Nairobi.

The attack began Saturday and dragged into Sunday, with 10 to 15 terrorists holed up inside the building with up to 50 hostages, as Kenyan authorities mounted what it called a final operation to end the siege. By evening, Kenyan officials said “most” hostages had been rescued. Somalia’s Islamist rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility and said the attack was revenge for the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia.

At least two Canadian citizens and one permanent resident of Canada were among the 175 injured.

jennylee@vancouversun.com

Friends and family members attend the funeral of Nagib Damji in Burnaby, BC., September 27, 2013. West Vancouver businessman Nagib Damji was killed in when he was caught in the crossfire at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)

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