Soldiers face prison terms over looting at Westgate mall

Thursday October 3 2013

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Soldiers who may have looted shops at the Westgate mall following the recent terrorist attack risk 10 years in prison.

National Assembly committees investigating the attack and other related incidents is already pushing for action to be taken against any officer found guilty following complaints from shop owners.

The matter came up during Thursday’s deliberations by members of the Defence and Security committees, who have joined forces to inquire into security lapses that may have made it easy for the terrorists to strike.

MPs in the committees want a scrutiny of closed circuit television footage (CCTV) in the mall.

They have also proposed forensic examination of devices, including ATMs.

The MPs have promised to submit a report within 30 days. The investigation starts on Monday.

Already, three people have volunteered information to the parliamentary teams and are set to appear before them on Monday.

Other people willing to help in the investigation have been asked to submit memoranda to the committees through the Clerk of the National Assembly.

Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko will meet the committee on Monday.

Mr Mbuvi has said he has information that could help unravel the attack.

Meanwhile, the US says it is helping Kenyan security personnel to try and identify the attackers.

In an online Press conference hosted by the US State Department, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas Greenfield said FBI agents are in Nairobi assisting and providing investigations support “but at this juncture we are yet to get the identity of the attackers. When that is done, it will be made known,” Ms Greenfield said.

She said the US would enhance support for the Kenyan people to ensure the perpetrators of the terror attack are unearthed.

“We are putting a lot of resources in Africa to support the war against terrorism. If there is anything America can do to stop terrorism we will do it,” the US official said.

The American Intelligence believe the executors of  the horrendous attack at the Westgate Mall sneaked in their  powerful belt fed machineguns into a shop inside the Mall two days before the attack.
The US press has reported that corrupt Kenyan security officers may have facilitated the entry of deadly weapons used in the attack.

“Intelligence analysts say this may mean the militants acquired their weapons from corrupt Kenyan officers who are known to sell or rent out their guns charging as little as few dollars an hour,” the New York Times reported.

In Uganda a wanted terrorist Mueller alias Ahmed Khaled has caused a star in the country after intelligence circulated information that he sneaked into Uganda on Monday through Busia border.

The Uganda police boss Gen. Kale Kayihura said the suspect travelled to Uganda by bus and dropped off along Jinja road.

Gen Kayihura asked Ugandans to be on high alert as police launched a manhunt for the suspect.

Meanwhile, the military has defended its participation and conduct during the recent Westgate rescue operation. This follows claims that some of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers behaved unprofessionally, and even looted, during the four-day operation that also claimed the lives of at least five soldiers and a General Service Unit (GSU) officer.

Ministry of Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo yesterday said that although internal operations were a preserve of the Interior ministry, the KDF had a role to play in internal operations, saying the Constitution obliged them to assist and cooperate with other authorities in situations of emergencies and disasters.

“The terror attack at the Westgate Mall was one such situation that necessitated KDF action in internal operations,” she said.

Amb. Omamo has however also warned that all soldiers found culpable would be dealt with firmly in accordance with the law, saying that the ministry was committed to getting to the bottom of the matter. “Let it be known to the Kenyan people and the international community that KDF operational training and doctrine do not condone any unprofessional misconduct.

She refuted claims that the KDF was a sole entity in the Westgate operation, adding that that was a multi-agency operation which involved collective decision making.

“The KDF’s conduct inside the mall was guided by International Standard Operating Procedures that govern missions of such nature. In line with KDF training, great care and caution was exercised as is required with such delicate hostage situations,” she said.

The minister appealed for public participation in availing concrete information and evidence that would implicate the soldiers, and assured the public that all information presented would be treated with utmost confidentiality. The Defence headquarters has also given contacts ([email protected], 0726419706) for members of the public to share information.