Kenya says al Qaeda-trained Sudanese man helped lead mall attack

Reuters

* Mall attack the worst in Kenya since 1998 bombing

* Somali Islamist militant group has threatened more attacks

* Alleged attacker seen smiling on CCTV footage

By James Macharia

NAIROBI, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Kenya's government said aSudanese man trained by al Qaeda was among the leaders of a raidon a Nairobi shopping mall in which at least 67 people werekilled, the worst attack in the country in 15 years.

Al Qaeda-linked group al Shabaab has claimed responsibilityfor the assault two weeks ago on the Westgate centre, saying itwas an act of revenge for Kenya's military campaign in Somalia,but the identities of the gunmen have remained unclear.

A Kenyan military spokesman on Saturday named four of theattackers, saying they also included a Kenyan Arab and a Somali.

Closed-circuit television footage from the Westgate mall wasbroadcast on Kenyan television channels that appeared to showfour men with guns and backpacks apparently carrying ammunitionwalking around the mall's supermarket and a storage room.

Major Emmanuel Chirchir, the spokesman for the Kenya DefenceForces (KDF), named the four as Abu Baara al-Sudani, OmarNabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr.

"I confirm these were the terrorists. They all died in theraid," Chirchir told Reuters, citing the findings of the KDF andnational intelligence bodies.

He said Al-Sudani, which means "The Sudanese", was theleader of the group shown in the CCTV footage and was trained byal Qaeda.

"He is an experienced fighter and sharpshooter," he said.

Nabhan, a Kenyan of Arab origin, was born in the coastalcity of Mombasa and travelled to Somalia with his uncle at theage of 16, said Chirchir.

Al-Kene was thought to be from the Somali capital Mogadishu,and was linked to country's al Shabaab militants, he said.

Umayr's full name, nationality and background were "not yetidentified", Chirchir added.

Kenya has said as many as 15 militants took part in the raidand the authorities were holding nine of them. The governmentsaid five of the attackers were killed, but survivors say somemay have escaped.

Al Shabaab militants said on Saturday that Western forceshad raided a coastal town under cover of darkness and killed oneof their fighters. It was not clear whether the assault wasrelated to the attack on the Kenyan mall.

Chirchir said he was trying to get details of the attack inBarawe, about 180 km (110 miles) south of Mogadishu.

CCTV FOOTAGE

Matt Bryden, the former head of the United NationsMonitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, said al-Kene and Umayrwere known members of al Hijra, the Kenyan arm of al-Shabab.

Bryden said al Hijra is not simply an Al-Shabaab offshoot.Its roots pre-date al Shabaab, stretching back to early al Qaedanetworks in East Africa.

"Nabhan obviously suggests and association with the Al-QaedaEast Africa cell leader killed in Somalia in 2009, but itremains to be seen if this is a coincidence or something more,"said Bryden through email.

Nabhan was killed by helicopter-borne U.S. special forces insouthern Somalia, suspected of building the bomb that killed 15people at an Israeli-owned hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002.

The Westgate attack, Kenya's worst since al Qaeda bombed theU.S. embassy in 1998 and killed more than 200 people, hasshocked Kenyans and confirmed fears in the region and the Westthat Somalia remains a training ground for militant Islam.

Al Shabaab, who want to impose their strict version ofsharia, or Islamic law, across Somalia, were driven out ofMogadishu in late 2011. They are now struggling to hold on toterritory elsewhere in the face of attacks by Kenyan, Ethiopianand African Union forces.

The CCTV footage obtained by the local TV stations showedthe attackers walking casually through a supermarket, holdingmachineguns and speaking on mobile phones.

The man Chirchir identified as Al-Sudani is seen walkinginto a storage room. He then beckons to his colleagues to joinhim and they walk into the frame one by one.

He walks about with what appears to be a bandaged leg,apparently from a bleeding wound, but is not seen limping.

A second piece of footage shows him rifling through a cashregister at the Nakumatt chain store, where many people werekilled, according to witness accounts.

In one image he appears to be smiling.

"The investigations are progressing well, and we areoptimistic some people will be prosecuted soon," Kenya'sInspector General of police David Kimaiyo told Reuters. Hedeclined to give more details about the case.

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