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Forensic experts pore over Kenyan mall

Mary Italo mourns the death of her son, Thomas Italo, who was killed during the attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Mary Italo mourns the death of her son, Thomas Italo, who was killed during the attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Published Sep 26, 2013

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Nairobi -

Investigators from several countries were aiding Kenya to piece together evidence from the Westgate mall attack, which left at least 67 dead, as the country remained officially in mourning on Thursday.

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Kenya was marking three days of national mourning, starting on Wednesday, with flags flown at half mast. Sombre, religious and nationalist music played on television stations to a backdrop of scenes of rescues during the attack.

The Red Cross said 71 people were still missing, a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta declared an end to the siege.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told a press conference he believed only a “minimal” number of bodies lay beneath the three floors of the mall that collapsed.

Lenku said most corpses were probably those of terrorists. He confirmed five al-Qaeda-linked gunmen were slain in a shootout with security officers, while 10 people are in custody for questioning, though it was unclear where they were arrested.

In all, 61 civilians and six members of the security forces died during the four-day siege at the Nairobi mall by Somali Islamist militia al-Shabaab. More than 175 people were injured, including 62 who remain in hospital.

Forensic teams from Interpol, the United States, Israel, Britain, Germany and Canada were combing the shopping mall, looking for clues, including the nationalities of the attackers and their gender, amid speculation one might have been a woman.

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British and US citizens are suspected of having taken part in the attack, but Lenku said he could not give further details until forensic investigations are completed.

The government was looking into reports that the attackers had access to the mall in advance and had stashed weapons inside.

“We are getting a lot of information, suggestions and input from people of good will and also rumour mongers,” the minister said.

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Kenyatta has vowed to find and punish those responsible for the attack.

Al-Shabaab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane released an audio message claiming responsibility for the Nairobi mall massacre, saying it was retaliation for Kenya's military presence in Somalia. He threatened more strikes if Kenya did not withdraw.

“Your troops killed many innocent people,” Godane said in the message. “Now, it is your time to taste the fruits.”

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Godane made reference to fighting in Kismayo, a prosperous port city that Kenyan troops, backing Somali government forces, captured last year from al-Shabaab. The loss of the city has been an economic blow to the Islamists.

Kenyan forces entered southern Somalia in 2011, after a spate of kidnappings on its soil. Its troops are now part of the African Union peacekeeping mission helping the government fight against al-Shabaab's insurgency.

The militant group still controls swathes of territory in rural southern Somalia and carries out bombings in the capital Mogadishu.

Godane said the mall attack was a “message” to the West to stop support for Kenya. The Westgate shopping centre, he charged, had Western and Jewish business interests.

Nairobi itself is slowly getting back to business. Charitable organisations said they were continuing to receive donations to help the victims. - Sapa-dpa

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