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article imageOp-Ed: Many questions still to be answered about Kenya mall attack

By Ken Hanly     Oct 2, 2013 in World
Nairobi - The answers to some questions about the Sept. 21 terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi have changed over time. Others still remain to be answered and others are yet to be fully answered.
The questions and answers are posted in an extensive Associated Press report that can be found on various sites including ABC news. The overall impression I have is that the Kenyan authorities have quite a bit of explaining to do concerning the information they have provided as well as their responses to the attack.
The Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said that there were 10 to 15 attackers a day after the attack. Now officials claim that five attackers had been killed. Other suspects were arrested including one who died in custody. However, it is not clear how many of these suspects were in the mall if any. The authorities have not said how many attackers may have been able to flee the siege. Indeed they claim that none escaped. The numbers do not add up as the appended video points out.
During the siege there were many reports of a white female being involved and several Americans. President Kenyatta said a UK woman and three American citizens may have been involved. As of now, there is no evidence of any female participation or that Americans were among the attackers. The rumours were fed by a list of attackers posted on what turned out to be a fake al-Shabaab Twitter source.
During the attack the former Kenyan Prime Minister said the second day that quite a number of hostages were being held. Later the same night the military announced that most hostages had been freed. No officials have ever said how many people were held hostage.
It is not even clear that there were ever any genuine hostages who were actually held by the attackers to use as shields and to bargain with. Those called hostages may simply have been shoppers hiding out in the mall after the siege and consequently rescued by security forces. Surely this issue could be settled. If there were true hostages reporters would be able to report on their experiences after their release.
Another important issue concerns the cause of the collapse of three floors of the mall. The attackers did apparently set a mattress fire. One official said that this contributed to the collapse of the building. However, two government officials told the Associated Press that it was offensive military action by Kenyan forces that caused the collapse. Press were told that rocket-propelled grenades were fired inside the mall. It is not clear if these took out the supporting columns or perhaps some other explosion.
The official count is of 61 civilians killed. Those killed included 18 foreigners and six security personnel. Authorities believe five attackers were also killed. Many thought that the toll would rise as dead hostages were found but officials now say there are few bodies remaining. It is still not known if bodies still remain at the scene of if body parts removed just recently were of those included in the death toll.
The government insists that there are no official reports of missing persons and that an "insignificant number" of bodies remain in the mall. However, the Red Cross reports that 39 people have been reported missing. This information is several days old and the Red Cross has not given any updates.
The Kenyan government does not seem to be very forthcoming or have very accurate knowledge of what happened. As shown by the appended video, the Kenyans too have questions about the attack to which they seek answers.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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