Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the evening of September 24th that the four-day attack on the Westgate mall carried out by international terrorists, had been terminated by Kenyan security forces. As of now, 72 people are known killed; 61 civilians and six security force members died during the prolonged attack with military-grade weapons. 11 suspects are being held in custody. Five of the attackers are known to be dead. The attackers singled out non-Muslims, and at least 18 of the dead victims were foreigners, according to france24 news service. Kenyatta reported that the three upper floors of the four-story structure had collapsed, and more victims and terrorists bodies are expected to be found in the rubble. The site is still being searched for additional explosives.
Western media are blaming the attack on what is being called a Somali-based jihadist group, al-Shabaab, which reportedly formally allied with al-Qaeda last year. A significant number of the attackers came from outside Somalia. According to press accounts, Kenyan chief of general staff, Julius Karangi, said, “They are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world.”
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohammed, in an interview on PBS, stated that “From the information that we have, two or three Americans [were involved], and I think, so far, I have heard of one Brit… a woman … and I think she has done this many times before.” In an interview with al-Jazeera yesterday, Mohammed said that Shabaab was not acting alone.
Attention is being focussed by investigators on especially British links to the attacks, as well as the role of jihadists from America, Canada, Finland, and elsewhere. On the first day of the attack, one witness who escaped said that at least one of the attackers was Arab, and not Somali.
The British woman referred to was Islam-convert Samantha Lewthwaite, daughter of a British army soldier of Irish origin. She was previously married to one of the suicide bombers killed in the July 7, 2005 London attack. She was being sought in Kenya for complicity in a previous bombing attack in Kenya. Referred to as the “White Widow,” she was characterized, according to reports, as one of the leaders of the attack.
Foreign involvement may be difficult to prove forensically, because witnesses of the attack say that the ringleaders might have escaped during the confusion, according to a New York Times report today, when men, women, and children were being methodically mowed down. One witness reported seeing an attacker change clothes, before running out.
Security officials in Nairobi reported that two of the attackers, both women, appeared to be directing other attackers during the slaughter, but managed to escape.
Not an autonomous operation, the Shabaab apparatus has been used to play an intermediary role providing a training site, and connecting the jihadist capabilities of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East, to East and West Africa, which has resulted in a unified operation funded by the Saudis and other Gulf kingdoms, ultimately coordinated from London.