Police question 8 Nairobi attack suspects

Last Updated: Fri, Sep 27, 2013 15:30 hrs

Nairobi, Sep 27 (IANS) The Kenyan government said Friday that it is currently holding eight suspects for interrogation in connection with the Nairobi mall terror attack.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku told journalists in Nairobi that three others have been interrogated and released, Xinhua reported.

He said Kenya has vowed to spearhead the fight against the Somali militants.

"This being a terrorism activity, we are operating under the Anti-Terrorism Act which allows for suspects to be held for longer periods before being arraigned in court," Lenku said during a media briefing on the terror attacks.

He said the death toll from the terror attack at an upscale shopping mall that has been blamed on the Al Shabaab militia group stood at 67, including 61 civilians and six security officers.

The cabinet secretary said that deployment of security forces during the siege was made in accordance with agencies' specialisation.

He added that five suspected terrorists were killed during the operation and the ongoing forensic investigations will ascertain their identities.

Lenku added that the Westgate Mall remained a scene of crime and so access would remain limited.

"Investigators are systematically sifting through the rubble and they are reporting good progress," he said.

An unknown number of heavily armed terrorists attacked Westgate Mall, a popular upscale shopping centre in Nairobi, Sep 21.

Kenyan security services were only able to end the attack and restore order Sep 24.

The cabinet secretary said that no bodies have been recovered from the rubble so far.

"It is important to note that it is a very delicate matter and complex operation that is being conducted by both foreign and local agencies but will require time to complete," he said.

Kenyan security agencies have in the past responded to attacks for which they blamed Somalis with widespread abuses against the Somali Kenyan and Somali refugee communities.

"According to police records, there are no formal or official reports of missing persons who could have been at the mall during the time of the attack," Ole Lenku said.

The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said at least 59 people are still listed as missing following the attack.

The KRCS, which has been leading the rescue mission, said tracing services were carried out in all morgues in Kenya where only 10 missing persons were found alive with families and two bodies were positively identified by their close families.

Ole Lenku said that in view of the current security situation, the level of Interpol alertness has been raised in respect to known global terrorists including British woman Samantha Lewthwaite.

Lenku noted that according to police records there are no formal or official reports of missing persons who could have been at the mall during the time of the attack.

"However, the centre for reporting missing persons remains open but all that is reported must be genuine and verifiable by the reporting person," he said.

He also ruled out the possibility of Kenya withdrawing its troops from inside Somalia until the threat of Al Shabaab to Kenya's security is neutralised.

"We went to Somalia because Al Shabaab was a threat to national security... We will continue to take action on that front until our security and interests in the country are protected," Ole Lenku told reporters.

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