In Kenya, Questions Arise Over Reported Warnings Of Attack

Sep 29, 2013

Kenyan authorities say they've made another arrest in the deadly attack on an upscale mall that shocked Nairobi last week. But officials are also facing questions over reports of intelligence that may have given warnings about the attack, which ended with at least 67 deaths.

According to the Kenyan Red Cross's last update which came on Friday, 59 people who are believed to have been in the mall remain unaccounted for.

At a news conference Sunday, Kenya's interior minister, Joseph Ole Lenku, said that nine people suspected of being involved in the attack are in custody, including one who is believed to have helped bring militants into Kenya.

Lenku also told Kenyans who have grown impatient with the government's pace of providing of information about the attack, "We ask you to bear with us."

As for the reported warnings, Lenku "said intelligence issues were confidential and would not be discussed in public," the BBC reports.

NPR's Gregory Warner reports from Nairobi:

"The list of suspects being questioned by Kenyan authorities continues to grow. But it's Kenya's own intelligence chief, Michael Gichangi, who will have to answer questions from Kenyan lawmakers Monday.

"Kenyan media has reported that foreign embassies, including Israel's, had warned officials of an impending attack on the Westgate Mall. A leader in Kenya's Jewish community said that Israel only gave standard security alerts around the period of the Jewish new year and did not mention Westgate by name.

"Intelligence chief Gichangi will also address accusations that the response to the attack was hampered by jurisdictional disputes between Kenya's special police and its military. The lack of a clear chain of command may have given terrorists a chance to regroup and kill more civilians."

News of the alleged warnings emerged Saturday in Kenyan newspapers. The first mention of a possible attack like that on Nairobi's Westgate Mall was allegedly dated September of 2012.

Kenya's The Star reports:

"The Israeli Embassy in Nairobi had warned of terror attacks this September targeting its citizens, according to briefs prepared by the National Intelligence Service.

"The Westgate shopping mall is partly owned by Israeli citizens including Alex Trajtenberg. The popular Artcaffe on the ground floor where many people died is also Israeli owned."

The newspaper adds that Kenyan intelligence briefs named three possible participants in an attack, saying they were believed to possess explosives and guns. A more recent alert allegedly warned Kenyan intelligence officials that 15 militants backed by the Somali group al-Shabab were preparing to enter Kenya as refugees.

Al Jazeera reports that the intelligence document also includes the names of the Kenyan officials who received it.

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