5 Oct 2013

Kenya: Military name Westgate mall attackers

The Kenya military confirms two Westgate mall attackers exclusively named by Channel 4 News were responsible for the atrocity which killed 67 people last month.

It follows a report by Channel 4 News Africa Correspondent Jamal Osman on September 26 in which he exclusively revealed that Umayr and Khattab-al-Kene were two of the attackers.

Umayr is believed to have been killed in this week’s siege, was a Kenyan national, born to a Christian family from Nairobi. He converted to Islam and was also a former member of Kenya’s special forces.

Khattab was named by Channel 4 sources as a Somali national who worked in an Islamic bookshop in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh. He was arrested and imprisoned in Somalia, and it is alleged he was tortured by the CIA while in custody there.

Speaking on Saturday, Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the four mall attackers were Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr, all of whom died following the raid which ended the four-day siege.

The identities of the men come as a private television station in Nairobi obtained and broadcast the CCTV footage from the Nairobi mall.

The footage (see above) shows no more than four attackers.

They are seen calmly walking through a storeroom inside the complex, holding machine guns. One of the men’s pant legs appears to be stained with blood, though he is not limping, and it is unclear if the blood is his, or that of his victims’.

Shoppers hid for hours

The footage contradicts earlier government statements which indicated that between 10 to 15 attackers were involved in the September 21 attack. Terrified shoppers hid behind mannequins, inside cardboard boxes, in storage rooms, in ventilation shafts and in the parking lot underneath parked cars, many hiding for hours before help arrived.

Al-Shabab, al-Qaida’s affiliate in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia in 2011 that was aimed at flushing out the extremists.

Matt Bryden, the former head of the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, said via email that al-Kene and Umayr are known members of al-Hijra, the Kenyan arm of al-Shabab.

He added that Nabhan may be a relative of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of the most-wanted al-Qaida operatives in the region and an alleged plotter in the 1998 bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 250 people.

Pre-dawn strike

He was killed in 2009 when Navy SEALS led a strike in the town of Barawe in Somalia where he was hiding.

Early Saturday, foreign military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike against fighters in the same southern Somali village.

The strike in Barawe took place in the hours before morning prayers against what one official said were “high-profile” targets, without providing further details. A Western intelligence official said it appeared likely that either U.S. or French forces carried out the attack.

Both insisted on anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

A resident of Barawe a seaside town 150 miles south of Mogadishu said by telephone that heavy gunfire woke up the population.