JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Four Somali men were arraigned in a Kenyan court Monday, charged with aiding the September terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall in which at least 67 civilians and members of the security forces died.
The men pleaded not guilty to all charges against them, which included providing assistance to the attackers and entering Kenya illegally. One was also charged with harboring a terrorist, which suggested, for the first time, that one of the mall attackers may have escaped.
The Somalia terror group Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack in revenge for Kenya's military deployment in Somalia.
The bodies of four of the alleged attackers were removed from the shopping mall last month and underwent DNA analysis. Images from video cameras inside the mall showed four gunmen shooting at crowds. Earlier reports from government officials that 10 to 15 perpetrators were involved appear to have been incorrect.
The four men arraigned on Monday were Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdulla Omar, Hussein Hassan Mustafah and Adan Dheq.
Dheq, who also is known by several aliases, was also accused of offering shelter in a Muslim school in the Nairobi neighborhood of Eastleigh to a man he "knew to have committed a terrorist act," according to court papers listing the charges
The fugitive was identified as Abdikadir Hared Mohamed, alias Mohamed Hussein. There was no further information offered about his background or whereabouts, or whether he was a suspect in the Westgate attack, but Dheq was accused of harboring him "on or before Oct. 7," the court papers said.
On Oct. 5, Kenyan authorities named four of the alleged attackers -- and said none of those involved in the terror siege had escaped.
Eastleigh is inhabited predominantly by Somali migrants and Kenyans of Somali origin.
The prosecution said that one day before the mall attack, Omar, Abdi and Mustafah had knowingly aided two of the suspected attackers, Mohamed Abdinur Said and Hassan Dhuhulow, a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin, and others in carrying out the attack.
The prosecutor, James Kirui, called on Magistrate Dolphine Okundi to deny the men bail pending their next court date.
“We believe they are international criminals who if granted bail will definitely abscond, and it will be difficult to trace them,” he said.
Okundi agreed and remanded them to police custody until Nov. 11, when a trial date is to be set.
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