BY PETER MARTELL, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya charged 4 men Monday, November 4, in connection with the Westgate mall massacre in September, an attack claimed by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked Shebab in which at least 67 people were killed.
“The accused persons carried out a terrorist attack at Westgate Shopping Mall on September 21 by supporting a terrorist group,” the charge sheet read.
All pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also included entering Kenya illegally and obtaining false identification documents.
None are accused of being the gunmen in the mall.
The four, who are all ethnic Somalis, are Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah, Adan Adan and Hussein Hassan.
The suspects, who had no lawyer, were remanded in custody for one week after the prosecution asked for more time for further investigations.
All the gunmen in the Westgate attack – totaling just 4, not the dozen that security forces had initially reported – are understood to have died during the four-day siege.
Interpol is assisting Kenya in trying to identify 4 bodies suspected to be the gunmen, police said last week.
Witnesses in the mall described how the fighters stormed the crowded complex, firing from the hip and hurling grenades at shoppers and staff.
The gunmen coldly executed scores of people, with witnesses recounting how in some cases they called out to those wounded, then shot them at close range.
The Kenyan Red Cross has said some 20 people are still missing, and there are fears more bodies could be found in the wreckage of the mall.
Some of those charged were arrested in Kenya’s northwestern desert refugee camp of Kakuma, a vast settlement home to over 125,000 refugees from across the region, including Somalia.
Detectives are continuing to investigate a possible link to Norway, with Ndegwa Muhoro, head of Kenya’s Police Criminal Investigation Department, saying last week that a telephone call was made to the country from the mall during the attack.
A Norwegian citizen of Somali origin is suspected of being one of the attackers, a 23-year-old named in media reports as Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow.
Norway’s PST intelligence agency has said it has investigated reports about the possible involvement of a Norwegian of Somali origin in both planning and carrying out the attack, but has declined to comment if Dhuhulow was involved.
After the attack, the Shebab threatened further attacks against Kenya, after Nairobi refused to pull its troops out of Somalia, warning that “rivers of blood will flow in Nairobi.”
Kenya invaded southern Somalia to attack Shebab bases two years ago, and later joined the 17,700-strong African Union force deployed in the country.
In Somalia, efforts continue to target the Shebab, with a US drone strike killing the extremists’ top suicide bomb-maker last week.
The missile strike follows a raid by US Navy SEALS on Somalia’s southern port of Barawe in early October that failed to hit its alleged target: a senior Shebab militant leader and Kenyan of Somali origin called Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, also known as Ikrima.
Westgate mall remains a crime scene, with part of its back section collapsed after a fierce fire broke out on the third day of the siege when bazooka rockets were fired at the gunmen.