Nairobi, Sep 25: A day after the four-day siege involving suspected Somali Islamist militants at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre ended with 72 people dead, the fate of another 64 people reported missing in the terror attack was still not known Wednesday with authorities remaining tighlipped.
Kenyan police and government officials have not made public any details of the latest developments in the terror attack that started Saturday, leading to widespread speculation that the 64 may have died, or are trapped in the rubble of the building whose three floors have since collapsed.
President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the country Tuesday to say that the country’s security forces had posted victory and defeated the Al Shabaab raiders but gave no details on the fate of those held hostage or reported as missing.
“We have shamed and defeated our attackers, the cowards will meet justice wherever they are,” said Kenyatta without referring as to how the operation would progress after Tuesday.
Gunfire was reported at the ill-fated but upscale shopping centre in the early hours of Wednesday, with military sources intimating to the media that security men mopping up the complex for possible remnants of the militants had been fired at from one of the rooms.
With information remaining tightly controlled by the government, a British national was allegedly arrested in relation to the attack, according to foreign media in Nairobi, but no information was released on where from in the country he was nabbed or what role he is suspected to have played in the attack.
The arrest would bring to 12 the number of terror suspects nabbed since the attack.
So far 67 people, including six soldiers involved in the operation, have died and five terrorists confirmed dead, according to Kenyatta’s Tuesday night televised address.
In New Delhi, India’s external affairs ministry Tuesday said another Indian, Sudharshan B. Nagaraj from Bangalore, was among those killed. This raises to three the number of Indians killed in the attack.
“The toll of Indian citizens killed in Westgate attack rises. Sudharshan B. Nagaraj from Bangalore sadly identified as among those killed. He was in the book trade and had only come to Nairobi on Sep 20,” said the ministry.
The Indian high commission in Nairobi, it said, was in touch with Nagaraj’s next of kin and associates to repatriate his mortal remains.
Earlier, Sridhar Natarajan, 40, from Tamil Nadu, and Paramshu Jain, eight, the son of Bank of Baroda’s Nairobi branch manager, were identified as among those killed by Islamist Al Shabab militants.
However, dozens of Kenyan-Indians have also lost their lives, as well as businesses. Third generation Indians are dominant residents in the area where the mall is located.
At least five of the bodies have already been interred at the local Ismailia cemetery.
Forensic specialists from Israel, the US and Britain have been called in to help with investigations, according to cabinet secretary Francis Kimemia.
The nationalities of the attackers have remained a mystery but they are said to include Americans and a Briton, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohammed,
This fact was almost corroborated to the last detail by Chief of Defence forces Julius Karangi who told a media briefing that Kenya was dealing “with global terrorism”.
Controversy over whether or not British citizen Samantha Lewthwaite, a most wanted-terror suspect and commonly known as “white widow” was part of the gang, also remained unresolved.
(Maina Waruru can be reached at email@example.com)