In Summary
  • A jeweller and a watch shop, which stocks Rado watches, just next to the main entrance, have empty cartons strewn all over. The mannequins, which had been dressed with expensive jewellery, have been stripped bare.
  • Even more serious, the Nation learnt that the scene of crime was contaminated, perhaps beyond all recovery. There is extensive flooding, the place is either shot up, blown up or burnt.

The government Sunday admitted that there had been looting at Westgate Mall during the rescue operation last week.

Interior Cabinet secretary Joseph ole Lenku said three businesses had reported break-ins, something of an understatement given the condition of business in the ruined mall.

Between around 5pm on Saturday, September 21, when the last of the police and photographers were bundled out and yesterday, when shop owners returned, businesses appear to have been systematically ransacked and looted.

A jeweller and a watch shop, which stocks Rado watches, just next to the main entrance, have empty cartons strewn all over. The mannequins, which had been dressed with expensive jewellery, have been stripped bare.

Banks, forex bureaus have had their doors shot up and broken into. The shelves of Nakumatt, which is gutted, appear to be bare.

A big hole has been punched through the mall, which means the children’s star jump equipment on the roof is now on the basement.

The rescue operation was conducted initially by the Kenya Police, the Red Cross and neighbourhood vigilantes.

On Saturday afternoon, everybody else was cleared out of the place and the Kenya Defence Forces took over.

“The cases of those who have reported break-ins are being investigated,” Mr Lenku said.

Merchants, who returned to the mall yesterday, said they found most of their premises had been vandalised.

But Mr Lenku maintained that most of the traders had “confirmed that having inspected their businesses, they found most of their wares intact”.

“The government takes very seriously allegations of looting and that those found to have engaged in the looting will be prosecuted,” Mr Lenku went on, pointing out that three suspected looters are already in police custody.

Even more serious, the Nation learnt that the scene of crime was contaminated, perhaps beyond all recovery. There is extensive flooding, the place is either shot up, blown up or burnt.

KDF chief General Julius Karangi said the fire in the mall was started by the terrorists lighting mattresses and throwing them downstairs in an escape attempt. Apparently, the burning mattresses set the mall on fire and caused an explosion whose plume of flames and smoke could be seen miles away.

Another military story was that soldiers set off explosives, and asked police ringing the place to fire their weapons, to distract and kill a terrorist sniper who had pinned them down for days.

But the biggest problem is the absence of hostages, or their bodies, and those of the terrorists that the minister himself had said were shot in combat with the KDF.

About 60 people are still missing and they were thought to have been taken hostage, but they could not be accounted for after the four-day siege. According to the government, there are probably were no hostages. “We think that, unless forensic investigations show otherwise we don’t think there are any hostages,” he said.

Police yesterday arrested one person and recovered one of the vehicles suspected to have been used to ferry the attackers to the shopping mall.

Inside the vehicle, Mr Lenku revealed, was a cache of weapons and other “crucial items” he said will provide crucial leads that could be used to get to the bottom of the incident.

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