Kenya confirms names of Westgate attackers
NAIROBI, Kenya – A military spokesman on Saturday confirmed the names of the four fighters implicated in the attack on the upscale Westgate Mall in Kenya’s capital last month, an assault that turned into a four-day-long siege, killing at least 67 people.
Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the attackers were Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr, names that were first broadcast by a local Kenyan television station. “I confirm those are the names of the terrorist,” he said, in a Twitter message sent to The Associated Press.
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 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’.
The footage contradicts earlier government statements which indicated that between 10 to 15 attackers were involved in the Sept. 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 neighbouring 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.
Little is known about the identities of the attackers, beyond their names.
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. 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 240 kilometres (150 miles) south of Mogadishu – said by telephone that heavy gunfire woke up the population.
Associated Press writer Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia, and Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.
© 2013 The Associated Press