NAIROBI: Kenya vowed yesterday not to bow to Al Shabaab threats of more attacks if troops are not pulled out of Somalia, following a devastating mall attack in Nairobi by the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents.
“We went to Somalia because Al Shabaab was a threat to national security... We will continue to take action on that front until our security and interests in the country are protected,” Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said.
Somalia’s Shabaab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane said the Nairobi Westgate mall carnage in which at least 67 people were killed would be followed by “more bloodshed” unless Kenya left Somalia. Kenya invaded southern Somalia to attack Al Shebaab bases two years ago, and later joined the 17,700-strong African Union force deployed in the country.
Funerals continued yesterday for the victims on the third and final day of official mourning, with President Uhuru Kenyatta attending the service of his slain nephew. As well as scores of Kenyans, many of the dead were foreigners, including from Britain, Canada, China, France, the Netherlands, India, South Africa and South Korea.
But dozens more are unaccounted for, with 59 people still listed by the Red Cross as missing after the attack. The extremists gloated at the massacre. “The mesmeric performance by the Westgate Warriors was undoubtedly gripping, but despair not folks, that was just the premiere of Act 1,” the group said.
Close to 200 people were wounded in the four-day mall carnage. Police continued to scour the fire-blackened rubble in Westgate for bodies and clues, with Lenku insisting that contents of smashed shops would be protected from looters.
Kenya’s parliamentary defence committee meanwhile ordered army, security and intelligence chiefs to answer questions about the handling of the siege next week.
Police have pleaded for patience as Kenyan and international teams — including from Britain, the United States, Israel, Germany, Canada and Interpol — painstakingly examine the mall.
With around a third of the building collapsed and with the risk of booby traps amongst the mangled wreckage, the work of international forensic and security experts will take days to complete.
Several members of the Kenyan forces involved in battle inside the mall said that the fire broke out on Monday after Kenyans fired at least two bazooka anti-tank rockets at the gunmen, who were holed up in the strong room of a supermarket.
Interpol issued an international arrest notice at Kenya’s request for 29-year-old Samantha Lewthwaite, dubbed the ‘White Widow’, a reference to her marriage to one of the suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London’s July 2005 terror attacks.
Five suspected attackers were killed in the mall and eight other people detained, officials said. Three others have since been released without charge.