In Summary
  • Information coming out contradicts official statements from government
  • How many attackers were involved?
  • What was initially thought to be an ordinary robbery turned out to be one of the worst terrorist attacks in Kenya’s history.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku initially said 10 to 15 heavily armed attackers were at Westgate with one thought to be British terrorist Samantha Lewthwaite.

Reports on September 21 also alleged one of the gunmen had been arrested but died in hospital. And after the siege, Mr Lenku said five terrorists had died. But CCTV footage obtained by Sunday Nation days later — and subsequent leaked clips — showed only four attackers armed with AK-47 rifles.

The authorities have never explained the inconsistencies.

Who was responsible for the bungled security operation?

What was initially thought to be an ordinary robbery turned out to be one of the worst terrorist attacks in Kenya’s history. A handful of police officers and armed civilians initially took on the attackers before the elite Recce Squad of the General Service Unit arrived. But there are indications that when the military came in hours later, complete with armoured vehicles, there was no coordination, and the soldiers ended up shooting at the police inside the mall. The subsequent changeover is thought to have given the terrorists time to regroup.

While Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo was nominally in charge, Kenya Defence Forces Chief Julius Karangi was said to have been directing the operation.

The question why it took four days and blowing up a building to stop four men armed with light weapons and not holding any hostages lingers. And why was there a glaring lack of coordination between the police and the military?    

Were the terrorists killed or did they slip away as the security forces fought to take control of the building?

Initial eyewitness accounts claimed some terrorists may have dropped their weapons, changed clothes and melted into the crowd in the early stages of the attack.

Other reports on September 22 alleged the attackers escaped through a tunnel connecting the mall and a nearby building. A New York Police Department report last November claimed all the terrorists escaped. None of these claims have been proved.

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