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TFI Daily News

World News for World Changers

Oct 2

Mall shopkeepers suspect Kenyan troops in thefts

By Jason Straziuso and Rukmini Callimachi, AP, Sep 30, 2013

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP)—Jewelry cases smashed. Mobile phones ripped from displays. Cash registers emptied. Alcohol stocks plundered.

For the second time in two months, poorly paid Kenyan security forces that moved in to control an emergency are being accused of robbing the very property they were supposed to protect. First the troops were accused of looting during a huge fire in August at Nairobi’s main airport.

Now shop owners at Westgate Mall are returning to their stores after last week’s devastating terrorist attack to find displays ransacked and valuables stolen.

Shopkeepers spent Monday carting merchandise and other valuables out of their stores and restaurants to prevent any more thefts. No one can say for sure who is responsible, but Kenya’s security forces are strongly suspected.

Soon after the attack began on Sept. 21, Kenyan officials put a cordon around the mall, allowing only security forces and a few government personnel to pass through.

Since then, alcohol stocks from the restaurants have been depleted. One business owner at the mall said money and mobile phones were taken from bags and purses left behind in the mayhem. The owner insisted on anonymity to avoid retribution from Kenya’s government.

Employees of a book shop on the mall’s second floor returned to find registers yanked open and cash gone. The store’s laptops were also stolen. All the shop’s books remained in place, said owner Paku Tsavani.

Sandeep Vidyarthi went into the mall Sunday to help a relative retrieve equipment from his dental practice. Inside he said he passed shop after shop that had been looted, including the Rado store that sells high-end Swiss watches.

As he was leaving the mall, Vidyarthi passed a jewelry shop near the front entrance. The owner, he said, was presenting security officials with a long list of missing precious stones and high-end necklaces.

"The jeweler had written down this very long list," he said.

It is ironic, said the management team of one Westgate business, that store owners must now make reports of stolen goods to the same security forces suspected of doing the thieving.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku confirmed the reports of theft Sunday in a news conference. The majority of the responders to the terrorist attack came from Kenya’s military. A military spokesman did not answer repeated calls for comment.

A team of terrorists entered Westgate Mall shortly after noon on a busy Saturday, firing guns and throwing grenades. The attackers—the Somali extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility—held off Kenya’s military and controlled at least parts of the mall for four days.

The attack killed at least 67 people. The mall now has a gaping three-story hole in it from the siege.

Almost a week after the attack ended, more than three dozen people remain unaccounted for, the head of the Kenyan Red Cross said Monday.

The government contends there are no remaining missing people.

"The only way to verify this is when the government declares the Westgate Mall 100 percent cleared. Then we can resolve it," Red Cross head Abbas Gullet said.

A morgue worker told AP on Monday that six body parts have been found in the rubble. The worker, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about information not yet released, said it was not clear if the parts came from one or multiple bodies.

Five terrorists are believed to be under the rubble but no dead hostages, Interior Minister Lenku said Sunday. Government officials have said 10 to 15 terrorists attacked the mall. Lenku said some attackers might have escaped.

FBI agents, along with investigators from Britain, Canada and Germany, are participating in the investigation into the attack and are aiding Kenyan forensic experts. Results are not expected until later this week at the earliest.

Ndung’u Githinji, chairman of parliament’s foreign relations committee, said officials will “rethink” Kenya’s hospitality in supporting refugee camps, a reference to Dadaab, a refugee camp near Somalia filled with more than 400,000 Somalis. Security officials say some elements in the camp support and facilitate terror attacks.