Police in New York have contradicted Kenyan authorities over the fate of attackers in the West gate attack.
US newspapers reported that only four men may have carried out the attack on West gate mall that killed more than 60 civilians in September, and they probably escaped alive, according to an NYPD report made public Tuesday.
The report debunked many of the assertions made by Kenyan authorities, who claimed that as many as 15 attackers were involved, including some who might be foreign nationals, and that they were holding hostages.
More than 60 civilians and six soldiers died in the September 21 assault by terrorists from the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabaab on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. After a two-day siege and a series of explosions, Kenyan authorities said they had cleared the mall and killed four attackers.
At a Manhattan press conference Tuesday morning, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said investigators didn’t know “with certainty” how many people were involved, “but we believe there were only four shooters.” The NYPD report also said the attackers carried only light weapons, and that there is no evidence any of them tried to take hostages or remained in the mall after 12:15am on September 22.
It also said the female British jihadi known as the “White Widow” was probably never in the mall, despite tabloid rumors, and that the Kenyan military looted the high-end shopping complex.
Lt. Detective Commander Kevin Yorke, who prepared and presented the report, also questioned the Kenyan authorities’ theory that the attackers died when explosions collapsed portions of the mall. “As a cop, I’m very skeptical of claims until I see proof,” said Yorke, and added that there is “a lot of doubt in my mind it is true.”
The NYPD sent several detectives to Nairobi with the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate the assault, and Yorke assembled their findings into the report.
According to the NYPD’s reconstruction of events, the four attackers operated in two-man teams and coordinated their movements by cell phone. After throwing three grenades and entering the mall, they used AK-47 rifles in single-fire mode to shoot their victims. More than one-third of the dead were attending a children’s cooking contest that was being held in tents in the mall’s roof parking lot.
The attackers killed them within 15 minutes of arriving at the mall. The report said the attackers had grenades and several hundred bullets in eight magazines, but no body armor, handguns or heavy weapons.
They did not try to take hostages, but killed as many victims as they could, sparing some who could recite Muslim prayers or name the Prophet Mohammed’s mother. A Russian hand grenade was found on the roof with the pin removed but unexploded.