Westgate attackers chopper owned by former politician, pilot questioned and released
Detectives probing last month’s attack at Westgate Mall now believe six of the attackers hired a private chopper from Dadaab refugee camp to Nairobi.
The investigators said the six terrorists chose to use a helicopter in early September fearing that they might be easily identified should they travel by road.
The detectives believe the attackers were carrying weapons used in the attack. The chopper is owned by a former politician and the pilot was questioned and released.
The attackers are believed to have crossed over from Somalia six months ago into Dadaab, where they posed as refugees as they planned the September 21 attack that claimed more than 70 lives.
Investigators are also pursuing a Turkish national believed to have rented a shop at the first floor of the Westgate Mall a year ago, where the attackers stocked weapons they used in the attack.
Investigators say the Turkish national, whose name they declined to release, rented the shop but did not use it until six months ago when he started selling phones.
However, it is believed that the business was a cover and the shop a strategic location for the attackers who went ahead and fitted a bulletproof glass under the guise of doing renovations.
The Turkish national flew out of the country on Friday 20, September, a day before the attack, with a man of Indian descent whom they believe rented an apartment near Westgate for the terrorists.
Detectives are also looking for a white BMW car owned by the Turkish national and which they believe was used to ferry the attackers around town.
It has also emerged that a woman known as Wanjiru from Kangari village in Nyeri County was one of the attackers and the detectives are now seeking to know whether or not she was killed during the attack.
Wanjiru’s phone number was among the several ones that the four attackers, captured by CCTV cameras inside Westgate, called.
Detectives say Wanjiru was a key member of the Kenyan cell that provided logistical support for the six fighters who arrived in a helicopter from Dadaab.
She is believed to have been part of the larger group that stormed the mall before melting into the crowd.
The investigators believe that a great deal of planning took place at a mosque in Nairobi’s Majengo.
“They probably arrived there in time to ensure everything was in order before they left as the terrorists struck,” said a senior official involved in the probe.
The investigators have also arrested an official of Kenya Revenue Authority who is said to have assisted the terrorists to illegally clear some cargo, including a bulletproof glass that the Turkish national fitted in his shop at Westgate.
Four of the attackers captured in CCTV cameras have since been named as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr . Although the Kenya Defence Forces said the four were killed in the attack, their bodies have not been shown publicly.
Meanwhile, the police say they will bring to court next week three prime suspects connected directly and indirectly with the attack.
“We are holding three prime suspects over this attack even as we look for more. They are prime and efforts to process them for arraignment are on-going,” said Nairobi head of CID Nicholas Kamwende who is among the team of detectives investigating the attack.
Other officials said the arrest had foiled another similar planned attack on a popular social spot in the city. “They planned to attack people using grenades and guns but we have thwarted the plans,” said the officer who asked not to be named.
This follows the seizure of more than 20 grenades from a house in Majengo slums in the city a week after the Westgate attack.
It is not clear how many people were arrested from the house where the explosives were seized but informed officials said the recovery was a step forward in the war on terrorism.
So far, more than 60 suspects have been arrested, grilled and released after providing crucial information. Among those arrested are officials at the Dadaab Refugee Camp where some of the terrorists are said to have been before making their way to Nairobi.
FBI agents along with investigators from Britain, Canada, Israel and Germany were dispatched to investigate the crime scene.
There have been no details on what the international team has found so far in the bullet-scarred mall but they are expected to independently submit their reports.– The Standard