Somalia’s Al Shabab on Friday threatened fresh attacks against Kenya, as police scoured the smoking rubble in Nairobi’s Westgate mall devastated by their assault for bodies and clues.
The Al Qaeda linked Al Shabab gloated at the massacre of at least 67 people in the mall, which saw a group of gunmen storm the part Israeli-owned complex at midday last Saturday, firing from the hip and hurling grenades at shoppers and staff, before holding off Kenyan and foreign forces with a barrage of bullets for four days.
“The mesmeric performance by the Westgate Warriors was undoubtedly gripping, but despair not folks, that was just the premiere of Act 1,” the group said in one of a string of messages posted on Twitter overnight.
Since President Uhuru Kenyatta announced an end to the unprecedented 80-hour siege late on Tuesday, Al Shabab have claimed responsibility for an attack on Thursday on a police compound on the border with Somalia, killing two officers.
Kenya’s interior minister said on Friday the country would not bow to Al Shabab’s demands to pull troops out of Somalia.
“We went to Somalia because Al Shabab 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,” Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters.
Five suspected attackers were also killed in the four-day long siege at the mall, while Lenku said police were now holding eight suspects.
“We are operating under the terrorism act which allows suspects to be held for longer periods before they are arraigned in court,” Lenku said.
Three others have been released without charge.
Lenku said measures were being taken to protect valuable goods inside the sealed off Nairobi mall.
“Our security forces are responsible people and we have put every mechanism in place to ensure that there will be no such criminal activity,” Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters.
Unconfirmed reports that up to $1 million worth of jewels were stolen from a shop at the Westgate mall have raised fears among owners of the vast complex’s businesses that police guarding the site were helping themselves.
Several members of the police force, which has consistently been ranked as Kenya’s most corrupt institution, have been questioned over widespread theft that took place in the panic caused by a fire that gutted large sections of Nairobi’s international airport in August.
“We want to ensure people that have businesses at Westgate there that their property is safe,” Lenku said in his latest update on the attack.
“On the issue of looting, we will invite owners of the businesses in the mall to assess their stalls,” he added. [AFP]