September 26, 2013

FBI agents work in nightmarish scene at Kenya mall

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A morgue worker waits outside in the grounds of the mortuary in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. Kenyan authorities prepared for the gruesome task of recovering dozens more victims than initially feared after the country's president declared an end Tuesday to the four-day siege of a Nairobi mall by al-Qaida-linked terrorists. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

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A street-seller makes floral wreaths outside the mortuary in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. Kenyan authorities prepared for the gruesome task of recovering dozens more victims than initially feared after the country's president declared an end Tuesday to the four-day siege of a Nairobi mall by al-Qaida-linked terrorists. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

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The violence continued elsewhere Wednesday. In the Kenyan town of Wajir, which lies along the border with Somalia, one person was killed and four wounded after a gunman opened fire and threw grenades, the Interior Ministry said.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said forensic experts from the U.S., Israel, Britain, Germany and Canada are all taking part in trying to reconstruct the scene at the mall. He said results would not be ready before a week's time.

Morgue officials in Nairobi have been prepared for the last two days for a large influx of bodies still in the mall. Officials have told AP that the shopping center, which the terrorists held for four days, could hold dozens more bodies. The government has confirmed 72 total deaths: 61 civilians, six security forces and five attackers. The Red Cross says 71 people remain missing.

Al-Shabab said the Kenyan government assault team carried out "a demolition" of the building, burying 137 hostages in the debris. A government spokesman denied the claim and said Kenyan forces were clearing all rooms Wednesday, firing as they moved and encountering no one.

The al-Shabab claim appeared to refer to the rocket-propelled grenades fired inside the Nakumatt department store, in the incident described to AP by a government official.

In a series of tweets from a Twitter account believed to be genuine, al-Shabab also said that "having failed to defeat the mujahideen inside the mall, the Kenyan govt disseminated chemical gases to end the siege."

Kenyan government spokesman Manoah Esipisu told AP that no chemical weapons were used — including tear gas — and that the collapse of floors in the mall was caused by a fire set by the terrorists.

"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 likely rise.

The country's interior minister in a press conference said an "inconsequential number" of bodies remained in the mall.

The mall's top level parking lot 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, said Esipisu.

Lenku said there were no indications that a woman took part in the attack, despite persistent press speculation, and he said officials have not yet confirmed reports that the attackers had rented a shop inside the mall.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec said Wednesday that Washington is providing technical support and equipment to Kenyan security forces and medical responders. Godec said the U.S. is assisting the investigation to bring the attack's organizers and perpetrators to justice.

In another development, a British man was arrested in Kenya following the terrorist attack, Britain's Foreign Office said.

British officials are ready to provide assistance to the man, the agency said in a statement Wednesday. Officials would not provide his name or details. He is believed to be in his 30s. Britain's Daily Mail newspaper said he was arrested Monday as he tried to board a flight from Nairobi to Turkey with a bruised face and while acting suspiciously.

Kenyan officials have said that 11 suspects in total have been arrested in connection with the attack, including at least seven at the airport. They are being questioned, said the government spokesman.

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

Al-Shabab, whose name means "The Youth" in Arabic, first began threatening Kenya with a major terror attack in late 2011, after Kenya sent troops into Somalia following a spate of kidnappings of Westerners inside Kenya.

The mall attack was the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 al-Qaida truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, which killed more than 200 people.

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