NAIROBI, Kenya – A dish in Kenya on Wednesday Two men were found guilty of their roles in an attack on an upscale shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, in which 67 people were killed in 2013. This was the first conviction in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country’s history.
The men – Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hussein Hassan Mustafah – were found guilty of charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism and support for the al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabab terrorist group. A third man, Liban Abdullah Omar, was acquitted of all charges. A fourth, Adan Dheq, was released last year for lack of evidence.
The verdict comes seven years after the Westgate shopping mall attack in which Shabab gunmen killed 67 people from 13 countries and wounded 175 others.
Chief Justice Francis Andayi of the Milimani Courts in Nairobi announced the several times belated verdict. A judicial translator relayed the judgment, which took four hours to read, in Somali to the defendants, who are all ethnic Somalis.
“Your defense and denial that they had any connection with the crime committed by the attackers is substantive and I deny it,” said the Chief Justice. “They acted together with the attackers.”
The Westgate Mall was a symbol of Kenya’s growing middle class, a place where wealthy couples and families shop, eat, and watch the latest Hollywood and Bollywood movies.
But it turned into a scene of terror on a Saturday afternoon in 2013 when it was stormed by militants who indiscriminately fired at the crowd inside, detonating grenades and sending frightened people running for the exits. The shiny floors of the mall were smeared with blood and covered with lifeless bodies. Witnesses later said the attackers selected non-Muslims to kill.
During a four-day siege to eradicate the militants, the Kenyan authorities were criticized for an inefficient and incoherent response, with police and military personnel stationed at the mall even shooting at each other. Soldiers were caught on camera stealing goods from shops in the destroyed mall. Security officials also fired a missile that collapsed entire floors of the five-story building, including the rooftop parking lot.
Kenyan and Western officials said four armed men from Somalia were involved in the attack and that all were killed during the siege. However, an independent report from the New York City Police Department indicated that some of the armed men may have escaped during the siege.
The two convicted on Wednesday were found by the court to support the armed men who carried out the attack. These activities included communicating with the attackers, knowingly assisting in the commission of a terrorist attack, and possession of materials related to a terrorist offense. You will be sentenced on October 22nd and will be in jail decades ago.
The Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s troop deployment in Somalia in 2011 as part of the United Nations-backed African Union peacekeeping mission.
The attack turned the Shabab into a deadly enemy capable of launching attacks on civilian and military targets across Kenya. In 2015, the group killed 148 people, most of them students, at a university in northeast Kenya. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in the country since militants linked to al-Qaeda bombed the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people.
In 2019, 21 people were killed after the Shabab attacked a luxury hotel and office complex in Nairobi. In January, Shabab fighters killed three Americans and wrecked a surveillance aircraft when they stormed a Kenyan military post where US forces were stationed.
On Tuesday, local news media reported that at least eight people were injured after attackers suspected of being Shabab attacked a bus in a town in northeast Kenya near the Somali border.
The Shabab continued to wreak havoc in Somalia, bombing foreign military bases, killing civilians and attacking hotels and restaurants. In December, the group was accused of detonating a truck loaded with explosives in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing 82 people, including students. Last month, another truck bombing related to the group in southern Somalia killed three Somali military officers and injured three others, including an American service member.
For many Kenyans, the siege of Westgate and the subsequent attacks on Kenyan soil show that the Shabab remains a strong threat, poised to advance its ambitions at any cost, said Murithi Mutiga, Horn of Africa project manager at the nonprofit International Crisis Group.
But while “today’s verdict will provide some level of comfort to the victims,” Mutiga said, many people in Kenya are still hoping for “a more permanent end to the threat of militancy.”