Four gunmen named in attack on mall in Kenya
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Kenyan security officials Saturday named four of the terrorists who attacked a Nairobi shopping mall two weeks ago and released CCTV footage of four gunmen walking calmly through the mall, talking on cellphones and carrying heavy guns.
Kenyan police said the number of people involved in the attack was four to six, not the 10 to 15 earlier estimated.
Shabab, the Somalia-based militant group, claimed responsibility for the assault on the mall, which according to official figures killed 61 civilians and six members of the security forces.
The CCTV footage aired on Kenyan television Saturday showed the gunmen walking around the mall and a limited section of the complex. Footage of the terrorists attacking and shooting civilians was not aired.
Kenyan Police Chief David Kimaiyo said none of the four to six terrorists managed to escape the building and all had been killed. His comments contradict at least one witness account of terrorists spotted mingling with the crowds escaping from the mall.
None of the men was a Westerner, contrary to earlier accounts, and police ruled out the involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite, the British widow of one of the suicide bombers who attacked London’s transit system in 2005. Kenyan police had previously announced they were seeking Lewthwaite.
Several of the attackers were men with terrorism training, according to Kenyan police. They were Abu Baara al Sudani, described by Kenyan police as the leader of the group, and as an experienced and trained fighter; Omar Nabhan, said to be a Kenyan of Arab origin; Khattab al Kene, described as a Somali extremist linked to Shabab with experience in explosives and firearms; and a man whose name was given only as Umayr.
“I confirm these were the terrorists; they all died in the raid,” Kenya Defense Forces spokesman Emmanuel E. Chirchir told Reuters news service on Saturday.
Kenyan media reported the men were well-known terrorism suspects on the police wanted list.
Kenya’s security forces have released successive and contradictory accounts during and after the attack. The Interior Ministry had earlier announced that five terrorists were killed and 11 suspects had been arrested.
The contradictions and unanswered questions have frayed public confidence in the security forces.
The latest information that no more than six men were involved also raises questions on how such a small group was able to hold off Kenyan forces for days.
The terrorists stormed into the crowded mall on Sept. 21 carrying machine guns, killing security guards and shooting people. Witness accounts said some Muslims were allowed to leave.
In the hours after the attack started, Kenyan soldiers looted many of the shops in the mall, according Kenyan media, citing CCTV footage broadcast earlier on local television, which showed soldiers walking out of the mall with plastic bags full of money and other items. Chirchir asserted Saturday that the military had merely taken money and valuables for safekeeping.
There have also been accounts of disputes between the police and military on who was in charge.
Earlier Saturday, Shabab militants in Somalia told Reuters that foreign forces attacked one of their bases at Barawe, south of the capital, Mogadishu, killing one Shabab fighter of Chechen origin. No Western forces have admitted to carrying out the attack, although U.S. and French special forces have launched attacks in Somalia in the past, for example to rescue hostages.
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