Sep 23, 2013 Comments Off Chuck Biscuits
Excerpted from THE TELEGRAPH: A Kenyan intelligence officer and two soldiers each claimed that one of the al-Shabaab terrorists killed by the security forces in the Westgate shopping mall was a white female, contradicting official sources who insisted all the attackers were men.
Another Kenyan intelligence source said video footage showed a white woman among the terrorists. He said she was actively involved and was believed to be British. A shop owner also claimed that a white woman pointed a gun at one of her assistants.
The Foreign Office and British spy agencies have said they cannot rule out the possibility that Lewthwaite, the widow of the July 7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, was involved. A senior Whitehall source told The Daily Telegraph it was “likely” that a woman of non-African, and possibly Caucasian, descent will prove to have been among the killers.
Lewthwaite, 29, a Muslim convert who is already wanted in Kenya on terror charges, has been labelled the “white widow” because of her marriage to Lindsay, who blew up an Underground train at King’s Cross in 2005, killing 26 people. She has been on the run in East Africa for two years after allegedly plotting to attack Western targets in Kenya.
British security services and counter-terrorism police are also investigating an English-speaking and apparently British spokesman for al-Shabaab who has defended the Somali group. Abu Omar carried out a series of telephone interviews on Monday insisting there would be no negotiations. Two years ago a man calling himself Abu Omar and claiming to be British appeared in a newspaper feature helping distribute food from al-Shabaab at a Somali refugee camp.
A Twitter account said to speak for al-Shabaab, which has now been removed from the website, claimed on Sunday that two London men were among the Westgate killers, but this has not been corroborated.
On Monday, despite repeated assurances from the Kenyan authorities that security forces controlled almost all of the mall, and that the rescue of hostages was going well, an unknown number of gunmen and hostages remained inside.
The official death toll stood at 62 last night, with 69 missing. Kenyan special forces were inching their way through the mall as the hostages faced their third night being held by the terrorists.
Questions were asked about the so-called final assault that Kenya’s army said was launched at dusk on Sunday but was still going on more than 24 hours later.
“We think the operation will come to an end soon,” said Joseph Ole Lenku, Kenya’s interior minister.
“We are in control of all the floors. The terrorists are running and hiding in some stores. The whole building is cordoned off. There is no room for escape.”
Officials have refused to say how many hostages are trapped in case some are still hiding from the gunmen.
The Kenyan government’s confidence that troops had secured the entire four-storey building by mid-afternoon on Monday was dented as a series of explosions ripped through the complex.
Black smoke was seen rising above the building, growing thicker by the minute as a fire said to have been started by the attackers took hold. There were unconfirmed reports that the explosions were detonated by the security forces as they tried to blow a hole in the roof to get in behind the terrorists’ positions.
Whether the attempt was a success remained unclear, but for the rest of the day troops and armed policemen continued to scour the building. Among the many incongruous images was television footage of soldiers making their way down the escalator of a toy department.
According to one report, the terrorists and remaining hostages, including children as young as two, were holed up inside the Millionaire’s Casino on the top floor of the mall.
Reports that confusion between different branches of Kenya’s security services had cost precious hours in the early stages of the response were denied last night. Anti-terror police who were first on the scene came under fire from army colleagues who mistook them for the attackers, according to two separate sources.
British and Israeli advisers have been involved in the response since the siege’s earliest hours, but were not officially said to have entered the mall as part of the armed response.
Al-Shabaab signalled that the hostages would be used as human shields, saying they would “bear the brunt of any force directed against the Mujahideen”. It also said its gunmen had plenty of ammunition, as well as having the advantage of watching news coverage of the assault on their positions on television.
Next to the mall, a Hindu temple was being used as a makeshift triage centre, with staff wearing bin bags over their clothes to prevent them becoming blood-soaked. Panic swept through the centre following a rumour that one of the gunmen had escaped and was heading for the temple, sending hundreds of medics and journalists sprinting for cover.
It proved to be a false alarm, but security forces were so nervous of a second attack that they used tear gas to disperse a crowd of curious onlookers.
Harrowing accounts of the carnage continued to emerge from survivors. Aquilah Kauser Ishaq, 32, a marketing manager for a Nairobi radio station, was on the top floor when she and her friends heard explosions. Outside in the car park, children were taking part in a cookery class. “There was a brother and sister running away,” said Miss Ishaq. “They were shot dead in front of us.”
Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, said: “It is possible we will discover further [dead] British nationals.”