Sunday, March 9, 2014
A Somali terrorist group claiming responsibility for Saturday's deadly attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has reported that one of the attackers is from Maine.
Kenyan security personnel wave at bystanders to take cover as heavy gunfire erupts from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday.
The Associated Press
Civilians who had been hiding during a gun battle hold their hands in the air as a precautionary measure before being searched by armed police leading them to safety, inside the Westgate Mall on Saturday.
The Associated Press
The report came from the now-suspended Twitter feed of al-Shabab that listed a dozen individuals who the group claims were involved in the Westgate Mall attack, which killed at least 68 people.
The list, which identifies six participants as U.S. citizens, was quickly copied and repeated on blogs, Facebook and other online media outlets. The Portland Press Herald is not identifying the person named as being from Maine – or the others mentioned by al-Shabab – because it could not independently confirm their identities.
Besides Maine, the al-Shabab tweets said the U.S.-based attackers were from Illinois, Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, and Tucson, Ariz.
A spokesman for the FBI in Boston, Greg Comcowich, warned Sunday evening that it was too early to tell whether the Twitter feed or the names and places of origin listed on it were legitimate.
"I've gone through this before," he said. "People often take credit for things that aren't true."
Comcowich said the FBI could not yet confirm or deny whether it had knowledge of anyone from Maine being involved in the terrorist attack.
The national FBI office in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday night on the reported list or whether the agency believed al-Shabab has been recruiting in the U.S.
The State Department said it was monitoring the situation but declined other comment.
"We have seen the reports, are not in a position to confirm, and are seeking further details," a State Department official told the Press Herald late Sunday.
U.S. Sen. Angus King's office released a statement that alludes to the list by referencing news reports of the terrorist group attempting to recruit in Maine and the four other states.
"Any such activity in Maine is of especial concern to me and I will be working with Homeland Security, the FBI and my colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee to gather the facts of this situation and help guide the appropriate response," King, an independent, said in a written statement. "In pursuing this matter, justice should be swift and sure for those involved in this crime, including anyone with connections to Maine.
"At the same time, however, we must avoid assigning blame to members of our refugee community generally, the vast majority of whom came here specifically to avoid such violence and want nothing more than the chance to live peaceful and productive lives, as generations of refugees to our country have done before them," King said.
Both King and Maine's other U.S. senator -- Republican Susan Collins -- serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose members are privy to classified information from intelligence and defense agencies. Collins also formerly chaired the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
King spokeswoman Crystal Canney confirmed Sunday evening that the senator has seen the reports of an alleged Maine connection.
"We are aware of the list," Canney said. King's office is "talking to people" about the situation, Canney said, but she would not provide additional details.
Collins has requested a briefing from the National Counterterrorism Center, which is a joint operation of intelligence agencies that was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Collins' spokesman, Kevin Kelley, did not respond to additional questions on the alleged list or whether she was aware of terrorist groups actively recruiting in Maine.
"When I was the senior Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, we held hearings on recruiting efforts here in the United States by al-Shabab and other terrorist groups," Collins said in a statement. "The advantage for Islamist extremists is that American citizens can travel more easily and are less likely to be listed on terrorist watch lists."
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