Tuesday 20 March 2018

Mall attackers try to blame Kenya

Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya (AP)
Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya (AP)
Kenya security personnel take cover outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi (AP)
Kenya troops take their positions outside a shopping mall in Nairobi (AP)
Kenya security personnel move to their positions (AP)

Kenyan troops are still searching for bodies in the wreckage of the Nairobi shopping mall as its terrorist al-Shabab attackers tried to claim the destruction was not their fault.

The group claimed that a Kenyan assault team carried out "a demolition" of the building, burying 137 hostages in rubble and also used chemical weapons. A government spokesman denied the claims.

He said the collapse of three floors in the mall was caused by a fire started by the terrorists and that the official civilian death toll remained 61.

"Al-Shabab is known for wild allegations and there is absolutely no truth to what they're saying," he said. But officials said the death count will probably rise. Estimates varied between only a few bodies to dozens more possibly still inside the Westgate Mall.

Photos and video of the damage showed the mall's top level car park collapsed in the middle of the building. That brought the second level down onto the ground floor on top of at least eight civilians and one or more attackers.

Kenya said 11 suspects in total have been arrested in connection with the attack, including at least seven at the airport.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague has said it is prepared to work with Kenya to bring the attackers to justice. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that while Kenya has primary jurisdiction in the murder of civilians, the atrocity could also fall under the court's jurisdiction.

The mall, which was popular with foreign residents of the capital as well as tourists and wealthy Kenyans, is now being treated as a crime scene and the Kenyan military has handed over control of the building to the police.

President Uhuru Kenyatta told the nation on Tuesday night that the terrorists had been defeated and declared three days of national mourning beginning Wednesday.

Gunshots could still be heard from the mall but the government spokesman said they were from Kenyan forces going room to room, firing protectively before entering unknown territory.

Press Association

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