15 January 2014

Kenya: Trial of Suspects Linked to Westgate Attack Opens

Photo: Kenya Military
Part of the Westgate mall that was raided by armed militia in Nairobi.

Nairobi — The hearing of the case against four Westgate mall terror suspects began on Wednesday morning at the High Court in Milimani, Nairobi, where two of the three witnesses lined up by the prosecution gave an account of events shortly before the attack that left 67 people dead.

Stephen Juma, a guard with a private security firm, recounted to the court how three men alighted from a saloon car at about 12.30 pm and opened fire indiscriminately at shoppers at the parking lot before heading into the mall.

"One of the men was tall and fat, the second and third were of medium build and one of them had a magazine belt across his chest. He was also armed," he stated.

He told the court that all the attackers had black jackets and started by shooting a shopper who was coming out of the shopping complex.

He explained that when he heard the first shot, he immediately radioed for help and sought shelter in a nearby home whose compound was adjacent to the mall.

"When I began to hear gunshots, I made a radio call for help as I was running out of the main entrance. I then took shelter in a compound owned by an Asian until about 3pm. When I saw policemen milling around the mall, I joined them in the rescue efforts until about 7.30pm. After that time, I went home following instructions from my supervisor," Juma said.

Upon questioning by prosecutor Mungai Warui and the suspects' lawyers, Juma said that he never at any one point saw the faces of the three attackers.

"I have never seen these men before the court. I was not taken through an identification process at the police station when I went to record my statement on the 26th of September following the incident. I have also never seen them before," he affirmed.

His sentiments were echoed by the second witness Patrick Otwane who also told the court he did not see the attackers because he took off after the first loud blast.

Otwane stated that he was manning the pedestrian entrance to the mall when the incident took place.

He recalled being with his colleague when he saw two men wearing similar brown T-Shirts and brown jackets shooting at customers.

He stated that once this started, his partner fled to the basement of the mall while he took refuge in a nearby trench where he lay until the police came to the scene.

"When the assailants began shooting, I jumped and went to the receiving side of the mall where I jumped into a trench from where I lay low until the police came," he said.

He further indicated that he had never seen any of the accused people and wasn't called to identify the four suspects who are in court.

The four suspects charged in the attack are Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah Omar, Adan Dheq and Hussein Hassan Mustafah, who are accused of carrying out the attack jointly with others not before the court.

Abdi, Mustafah and Omar are separately accused of knowingly supporting Mohammed Abdinur Said, Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow and others in committing the terrorist act.

The four have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include obtaining false identification documents.

None of the men is accused of being the gunmen who carried out the attack in the upmarket shopping mall.

The Kenyan army said that all four of the attackers died during the siege.

One of the suspected attackers has been named as 23-year-old Somalia-born Norwegian national, Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow.

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