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Briton held after Kenyan mall siege

Security officers guard a checkpoint and divert traffic at the edge of the security perimeter put into place near the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

Security officers guard a checkpoint and divert traffic at the edge of the security perimeter put into place near the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

Published Sep 25, 2013


Nairobi -

Police investigating the Nairobi mall massacre are questioning a Briton who was arrested as he tried to fly out of the city after the attack.

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The 35-year-old was detained at passport control in the capital’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport on Monday afternoon as he prepared to board a Turkish Airlines flight.

His arrest came as Kenyan detectives investigated whether some of the terrorists from the Somali-based al-Shabaab militant group slipped out of the Westgate shopping complex amid the confusion, after changing their clothes with those of their hostages. The Briton, believed to be of Somali origin, attracted the attention of passport officers because of bruising to his face, his dark glasses and the fact he appeared to be acting suspiciously.

Under questioning, he claimed the injuries happened during a recent visit to Somalia. But while his UK passport is said to be genuine, officials said he had no travel history in Kenya: he had a visa but there were no records of him arriving in the country.

A Foreign Office spokesman said on Tuesday night it was aware of the arrest and was providing consular assistance.

MI5 and Scotland Yard are examining the records of Britons who travelled to Somalia and returned to the UK after training or contact with al-Shabaab amid fears they could be planning attacks in British cities.

Up to 20 Britons - mainly of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and East and West African backgrounds - are thought to be in Somalia training or fighting alongside jihadists with the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists behind the mall atrocity.

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Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said on Tuesday that two or three Americans and a white British woman - suspected to be Samantha Lewthwaite, the fugitive widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay - were among the hostage-takers.

But they were not referred to directly by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesdaynight during a TV address in which he said the terrorists had been “ashamed and defeated”.

Five terrorists had been killed and 11 arrested while 61 hostages, including six Britons, and six security officers had been killed, the president said.

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He warned that the recovery of bodies would be hampered by the fact that three floors of the giant Israeli-run complex had collapsed. The five dead terrorists are said to be in the rubble, making early positive identification impossible.

Announcing three days of mourning, he said : “As a nation our head is bloodied... We have ashamed and defeated our attackers.”

Al-Shabaab had earlier claimed its militants were still holed up in a mall and there were “countless dead bodies”, raising fears the death toll could rise even higher.

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The group said on its Twitter feed: “The hostages who were being held by the Mujahideen inside #Westgate are still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive.”

The arrest of a Briton and reports that fighters from up to seven countries were among the terrorists threw a new spotlight on the extraordinary recruitment and radicalisation carried out on behalf of al-Shabaab, that has seen up to 200 people travel from the UK to Somalia to train with the notoriously brutal Islamists.

So ruthless are some factions in the group that Britons who wanted to return home have been tortured while others have been held captive until their families have paid ransoms.

BBC Panorama journalist Peter Taylor, who is making a programme about al-Shabaab recruitment, said on Tuesday he had interviewed two 16-year-olds who had been horrified at what they found in the camps - one was forced to watch the beheading of a deserter.

On its Twitter account, al-Shabaab has claimed that Americans, Syrians, Britons, Swedish and Finnish nationals, Canadians, French, Afghans and Pakistanis are among their fighters.

The terrorist group that pledged its obedience to al-Qaeda and its head, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in February 2012, is fighting to impose a strict interpretation of sharia law in Somalia.

FBI agent Kyle Loven said investigators had worked with Somali community groups to try to stem the flow of young men being lured to fight jihad, but he warned that videos glorifying the war in Somalia were still a recruiting tool. He added: “Unfortunately they glamourise what it is to go to Somalia to fight and to die.”

Stuart Osborne, who was until recently Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism command, said on Tuesday night: “British involvement in Somalia and al-Shabaab has been going on for some years.” - Daily Mail

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