Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Mall forensic probe to take a week

Kenyan security forces walk back from the Westgate Mall as black smoke billows above (AP)
Paramedics run beside parked ambulances outside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi (AP)
Kenyan security personnel and journalists duck behind a vehicle as heavy gunfire erupts from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi (AP)

The full "forensic audit" of the Nairobi shopping mall terror attack will take at least seven days to complete, the country's interior minister has said.

International experts - including a team from Scotland Yard - are helping the Kenyan authorities as they seek to establish the identities of the militants who carried out the bloody, four-day assault.

Interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku said it was still not known whether there were any Britons or Americans among the al Qaida-linked militants or whether any of them was a woman.

"In our previous briefings we indicated that there was no indication to suggest that there is a woman terrorist but going forward we are all hearing possibilities and information - including volunteers from the public," he told reporters. "We want to again request you to allow the forensic experts to determine whether that is true."

The persistent suggestion that a woman was involved has led to speculation that it could be the British terrorist suspect Samantha Lewthwaite - who was married to the July 7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay. Dubbed the "White Widow", Lewthwaite is known to be in East Africa and is wanted by Kenyan police over alleged links to a terrorist cell that planned to bomb the country's coastal resorts.

Mr Lenku said the forensic teams - including experts from the US, Israel, Germany Canada and Interpol - were examining fingerprint, DNA and ballistics evidence in the hunt for clues.

President Uhuru Kenyatta declared on Tuesday night that the Islamist militants from the Somali-based al Shabab group who carried out the attack had been "defeated" as he announced three days of national mourning.

The Kenyan authorities have said that 61 civilians - six of them British - and six members of the Kenyan security forces were known to have died during the stand-off. Five terrorists were also killed while 10 suspects remain in custody in relation to the incident.

Mr Lenku said that he did not expect the civilian death toll to rise significantly, although there may be more terrorists buried in the rubble of the Westgate Mall, after three floors collapsed during the final stages of the siege.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said a British national reportedly arrested at Jomo Kenyatta Airport on Monday as he tried to leave the country was not being linked to the attack. A spokesman said: "Our understanding at this stage is that he is not connected to the recent terrorist incident." British authorities are understood to be trying to make contact with the man - said to be a 35-year-old of Somali origin - to establish whether he required consular assistance.

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