New CCTV footage has emerged from Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre siege showing Kenyan soldiers filling shopping bags with money from supermarket cash registers at the same time as the mall’s attackers were cornered.
Troops are seen strolling around picking up items from shelves, as others returned to refill bags after dropping loot somewhere out of the camera’s sights.
Separate video shows four of the gunmen who held the mall for more than 80 hours shut in a small office on the mall’s second floor, one nervously peering through a window as others attend to the fourth man, who has a leg injury.
At one point, three of the four men put down their guns and prayed, facing Mecca, while the fourth guarded the door.
These are the latest in a series of accounts claiming that Kenya’s army spent time stealing from some of the 85 shops in the Westgate mall when they were supposed to be fighting the terrorists.
These most recent claims “would definitely be investigated” as part of an inquiry announced by Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, on Tuesday, said Manoah Esipisu, the presidential spokesman.
“I have not seen that particular footage, but I can say that it and all other CCTV will form part of the commission of inquiry,” he told international media.
In the new images, one soldier is seen holding open a plastic shopping bag as a colleague tips the contents of a cash register inside, before moving on to the next check-out till.
Later, the cameras captured soldiers walking in and out of the mall, apparently under no threat from attackers’ weapons.
Four of the gunmen are seen cornered in a small room, “sweating and panicked”, according to Kenya’s The Star newspaper, which saw the video.
One keeps guard with his rifle high. Two others attend to the fourth, who is wounded on his right foot.
A senior Kenyan official working closely on the siege and its aftermath said that “elements” of the reports were true, but questioned the suggested timing of the footage.
The newspaper claimed the video was timestamped at various times during September 21, the first day of the assault.
But it is more likely that it was captured during the last 24 hours of the siege, when Kenyan forces had gained control of most of the building, and were not under such sustained gunfire as earlier.
The official did not deny that looting had taken place.
Repeated allegations that the army looted the mall while the attack gang was still loose and potentially holding hostages has lost the government much of the local and international goodwill it had following last week’s siege.
Army spokesmen and commanders have repeatedly denied that their troops stole from the shopping centre’s stores.
The official death toll remained at 61 civilians including six Britons, six soldiers and five attackers, although other bodies have been recovered from the rubble at the rear of the mall in the last two days.