Police say raiders may have been tenants in mall
Detectives are following leads that terrorists who attacked Westgate Shopping Mall may have hired premises either inside the shopping centre or in adjacent residential buildings for as long as one year.
Investigations are also focusing on the identities of people who visited City Hall’s planning department to obtain plans of the upmarket mall prior to Saturday’s attack in which more than 60 people were killed and over 200 injured.
Officials aware of the probe say accomplices of the attackers may have obtained the construction maps of the mall to help them plan the raid.
Police also plan to interview all the tenants at the shopping mall to establish whether the attackers or their accomplices had posed as businessmen.
Police sources say the terrorists appeared to know their way around the shopping centre, and the fact that they held out forces for so long also suggested they had a much higher supply of ammunition than they walked in with.
“We are following various clues on where these people are believed to have lived near the mall. We are moving well and we want to know all the tenants near there and anyone who supplied food and other services to them,” said one officer aware of the probe but who cannot be named because of security reasons.
The terrorists are also believed to have been running shops in the mall as they planned the attack.
The probe may, however, take some time as police will have to interview tenants of the mall and adjacent buildings.
Seven of at least 12 suspects being grilled by police were arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday as they tried to leave for various European destinations.
Police say their departures were suspicious and that is why they had been detained. One of the suspects is aged 35 and had a British passport.
The Westgate Mall is said to be among the public places around the country targeted by terrorists for quite some time.
In July last year, two Iranian terror suspects were arraigned in court on charges of possessing explosives.
Ahmed Mohamud and Said Mausud had been found with 15kg of RDX explosives.
International media quoted an Israeli minister saying that the two Iranians had planned to attack Israeli,American, British or Saudi targets inside Kenya.
Westgate is a premier complex usually frequented by wealthy locals and expatriates and is usually busy on weekends. It is one of an increasing number of malls that have come up in Nairobi and around the country.
The six-year-old shopping centre is located on Mwanzi Road in Westlands, one of Nairobi’s exclusive neighbourhoods.
It stands next to two other popular malls – Sarit Centre and Nakumatt Ukay – and competes for the same customers with Village Market, The Junction and Prestige malls, all in Nairobi.
Westgate, which sits on 350,000 square feet, houses more than 80 outlets that sell clothes, shoes, food and entertainment services.
It is also home to international brands such as Nike, Adidas, Converse, Identity, Ivory, Kache by Angie and Woolworths, Mocca, Little Soles, Sir Henry’s and Mr Price.
The mall boasts eateries such as Galito’s, Pizza Inn, Dormans and Java, Creamy Inn, Onami Restaurant and Sub Zone.
Banking, pharmaceutical, photography, beauty and dry-cleaning services are other services offered at the mall.-standardmedia.co.ke