Kenya’s foreign minister raised speculation about the involvement of Americans and an infamous British national in the assault on the Westgate mall in Nairobi.
Amina Mohamed told PBS that her daughter lost two of her best friends in the terrorist attack, which has dragged on into a fourth day as Al-Shabaab claims they still have hostages in the 350,000-square-foot shopping center even as Kenyan police claimed the mall was completely under their control.
At least 63 people are still reported missing.
“I think if you saw how it was carried out, it was professional. It was very well-coordinated. And it clearer I think to the government now that Al-Shabaab has been working with others in other parts of the world to just increase the outreach, their capacity, to expand the operations and to be able to reach places that they had not reached before,” Mohamed said.
She added that “we’re all shocked” the terrorist group could pull off such an operation undetected.
“And what does it tell us? It tells us that, as governments, we must do better. If they can cooperate at that level, if they coordinate their evil at that level, that governments around the world must cooperate even more, that we must be able to share our intelligence, we must be able to share our resources, we must be able to combine our efforts and to collaborate even more closely, to just make sure that we stay ahead of the curve,” continued Mohamed, an ethnic Somali.
“This is a totally new way of doing business for them. And I think we have just seen how much damage can be done. We shouldn’t let them don’t away with this.”
She defended Kenya going into Somalia, adding “we’re more strengthened in our resolve to do our best to uproot Al-Shabaab everywhere and anywhere we find them.”
Mohamed also acknowledged that taking in Somali refugees has left her country more vulnerable.
“I think it has, because it has been very, very difficult to differentiate between the genuine refugees and some of these elements that have been hiding among the refugees. So, yes, absolutely, I think it’s been something that we have been looking at for a while,” she said. “I think that, look, we have taken on international commitments to open our doors whenever anybody faces fear of persecution. I don’t think that this is going to be one of those occasions where we turn around and say, look, we just shut down. We will not do that.”
Now, she said, “everybody needs to up their game.”
“I think this attack shows this, that we do not do enough. We need to work much more closely with everybody, but much more with the U.S., I think, and the U.K. government, because, as you know, both the victims and the perpetrators came from Kenya, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” Mohamed continued.
“From the information that we have, two or three Americans, and I think so far I have heard of one Brit. Woman. And she has, I think, done this many times before.”
That points to speculation about whether “White Widow” Samantha Lewthwaite, a British widow of one of the 7/7 attackers who became an al-Qaeda paymaster, is involved in the attacks. Last year she was on the run in Kenya as international authorities tried to hunt her down.
“The Americans, from the information we have, are young men, about between maybe 18 and 19,” Mohamed said. “Of Somali origin or Arab origin, but that lived in the U.S., in Minnesota and one other place. So, basically, look, that just was to underline, I think, the global nature of this war that we’re fighting.”
“These people who perpetrate these crimes didn’t fall from outer space. They live among us. They live in our countries. Right? We know them,” she said. “And I think it’s time that we actually looked each other in the eye and said, listen, I think this neighbor of mine, yes, he must be planning something. I think we just need to be much more aware, much more prepared to deal with this, right, and we must always remain ahead of them.”
The U.S. government hasn’t confirmed or denied Al-Shabaab’s claim that at least three gunmen came from America.
Al-Shabaab launched a new official Twitter account and confirmed that a photo from inside the mall showed two of its mujahedin, “unruffled and strolling around the mall in such sangfroid manner.”
“There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the Mujahideen are still holding their ground,” they claimed. “The hostages who were being held by the Mujahideen inside
#Westgate are still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive.”