Still few details about victims, terrorists in Kenya mall attack
After almost a week, there is no precise death toll, no word on the fate of dozens still missing and no details on the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who attacked Nairobi’s most upscale mall.
The Associated Press
NAIROBI, Kenya — After almost a week, there is no precise death toll, no word on the fate of dozens still missing and no details on the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who attacked Nairobi’s most upscale mall.
As al-Shabab militants struck two Kenyan border towns and threatened more violence, relatives of the mall victims wept outside the city morgue Thursday, frustrated by the lack of information and a holdup in the release of bodies of the victims.
Roy Sam, whose brother, 33-year-old Thomas Ogala, was killed, said he had been going to the morgue since Monday, but workers had not prepared his brother’s body, which was mangled by a close-range gunshot wound to the head.
“They said they were going to prepare the body to make it look nice, but we came back the next day and the next, and it wasn’t any different,” Sam said.
The morgue superintendent, Sammy Nyongesa Jacob, said workers were told not to touch the bodies until post-mortuary studies had been completed.
Kenya’s chief pathologist, Johansen Oduor, said his team was removing bullets and shrapnel from victims to find out how they were killed and then handing them over to police as evidence.
He refused to reveal how many bodies were in the morgue but said he was told to expect more, though he would not say how many.
It was the largest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy, and FBI agents were dispatched to do fingerprint, DNA and ballistic analysis on the bodies. They were joined by investigators from Britain, Germany and Canada.
There have been no details on what the international team has found in the bullet-scarred, scorched mall, work that is expected to take at least a week, said Kenyan police spokeswoman Gatiria Mboroki.
The Kenyan Red Cross said Thursday that 61 people remain missing and many worry they may be buried under the rubble — though the government has insisted few victims are believed to still be inside.
The government says at least 67 people were killed in the assault by 12 to 15 al-Shabab militants on the Westgate Mall, including 61 civilians and six security forces. Five militants also were killed, but questions persist about the fate of the remaining attackers and whether some had escaped.
Many also questioned how such an audacious attack could have been carried out at one of Kenya’s most prominent sites and a symbol of its economic success, where shops for retail giants such as Nike and Bose drew foreigners and wealthy Kenyans.
Al-Shabab, meanwhile, threatened more attacks in Kenya, saying Thursday on its Twitter feed that the mall attack “was just the premiere of Act 1.”
“Make your choice today and withdraw all your forces,” the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Mohamed Godane, said in a statement posted on the Internet late Wednesday. “Otherwise be prepared for an abundance of blood that will be spilt in your country, economic downfall and displacement.”
In another development, Interpol, acting at Kenya’s request, issued an arrest notice for fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite, 29, not in connection with the mall attack, but over a 2011 plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya.
The British media have been rife with speculation that the British-born Muslim convert, who was married to one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London’s transit system, took part in the mall attack.
Officials have not made public any evidence linking her to the mall attack. The Interpol notice did not mention it. And al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group behind the takeover, denied any female fighters participated.
Nevertheless, the timing of the Interpol notice so soon after the attack fueled speculation she was involved. Interpol said this is the first time it has been asked to issue a “red notice” for Lewthwaite. There was no explanation from Kenyan police on why it asked for the alert now.