By Richard Lough
Two charred corpses recovered from Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall are “highly likely” to be two of the gunmen who killed at least 67 people last month, a lawmaker probing the attack said on Friday.
The September 21 mall attack, which was claimed by the Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab, was the worst on Kenyan soil since al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in 1998, killing more than 200.
Ndung’u Gethenji, chairman of parliament’s Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, said the corpses had been pulled from under rubble on Thursday in a part of the mall which had collapsed.
“All the indications are that they are the attackers,” Gethenji told Reuters.
“The area they were excavating is consistent with the area (the gunmen) were trapped in during the operation.”
Automatic AK-47 rifles of a model not used by Kenyan security forces and a rocket-propelled grenade were found close to the two bodies, said Gethenji, who is co-chairing the parliamentary investigation into possible intelligence failures.
“Personally I don’t have conclusive information as to how many attackers’ bodies we are expecting to look for,” he added.
Chilling CCTV footage from the first day of the four day stand-off with Kenyan security forces shows four gunmen calmly shooting panicked shoppers as others hide behind pillars or scramble along the floor towards exits.
At one point, a gunman walks up to a wounded man bleeding heavily as he tries to pull himself to safety and shoots him at close range, apparently killing him. The attackers are also seen taking turns to pray in what looks to be a store room.
Echoing investigators, Gethenji said it was still unclear if more gunmen apart from the four seen in the CCTV footage had been involved in the attack.
The corpses of the two suspected gunmen will now be subjected to detailed forensic investigations, he added.
In the absence of confirmed identities of the gunmen seen in the CCTV footage, investigators have been referring to them as “pink shirt”, “white shirt”, “black shirt” and “blue shirt”.
Al Shabaab have said they carried out the mall attack because the Kenyan government had ignored its warnings to pull Kenyan peacekeeping troops out of Somalia.
Uganda, which also has troops in Somalia, warned on Friday of a possible “imminent terror attack” on its territory.
Al Shabaab attacked Uganda in 2010 in a twin bombing.