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Kenya remembers Westgate attack


SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

Kenya remembers Westgate attack

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Kenyans marked one year since four gunmen stormed the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people and leaving the capital unsettled for days as militants battled with security and people trapped inside tried to flee the fighting.

Relatives of the dead, survivors and shop owners converged outside the mall on today and lit candles in memory of those killed.

A memorial plaque with names of the victims was also unveiled in a separate ceremony at a forest on the edge of the city where people hike. Later, a candlelight vigil will be held at a museum.

Police increased their presence in public places such as churches, supermarkets and malls after the police chief warned residents to be “extra vigilant” in the coming weeks in anticipation of more attacks.

Police had doubled patrols in Nairobi, chief David Kimaiyo said.

Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for the mall attack saying it was retribution for Kenya’s troop presence in Somalia, the group’s home base. More recently, al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab vowed to avenge the death of their leader killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this month.

The Kenya police force and army have been widely criticised for their response to the September 21, 2013 Westgate attack. It took at least two hours before the Kenya police tactical team went into the mall, leaving security guards and volunteers to fend for those inside.

Lack of coordination between the military and the police tactical teams led to friendly fire in which one police officer was killed and others wounded.

The police chief yesterday rejected criticism that the security agencies were disorganised and uncoordinated leading to a slow response to the Westgate Mall attack.

“It was done professionally,” he said.

Four men, one of them a relative of the attackers, are facing terrorism related charges in court for the Westgate attack. The attackers were eventually killed by a fire caused by a high explosive rounds shot at the mall by the Kenyan military, according to a senior police officer.

 

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