Part 5 of Nairobi Mall Shooting: Four Days of Terror

Image CAPTION] Terrorised Kenyans queue en-masse at the Kencom bus terminal to donate blood for an unspecified number of people wounded in the Westgate Mall Attack.

[QUOTE} “We have an idea who these people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world,” General Julius Karangi, September 23.

Argwings Odera

For four terrifying days, Kenyans lived under the reign of terror when attackers stormed and went on an indiscriminate shooting spree in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall at the stroke of noon on a lovely Saturday, September 21.

A digital outfit calling itself Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack and warned against any rescue attempts or it would kill an unspecified number of hostages it was holding. The attackers tweeted their involvement and the objective, removal of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) fighters from Somali territories formerly controlled by Al-Shabab.

Their statement came hours after a key counter-terrorism agent, Martin Munene, of the paramilitary Recce squad of the elite General Service Unit had been killed by … friendly fire.


Those close to the operation before and after the killing of Munene strongly disagree with this version of events. Instead, they say the celebrated marksman had been murdered in cold blood so that command of the shopping mall operation could be snatched from police hands and given to the KDF.

This killing is widely believed to have plunged the nation, and the world, into an unnecessarily prolonged hostile situation. A friend explains: “it is not a small matter. Munene’s killing was the biggest victory ever for terror organizations operating here (Eastern and Horn of Africa). Out of all those who died in Westgate, with due respect, Munene was the most critical loss. He (Munene) did not just take his skills to the grave, gone too are historical contacts and links that made him such a fearful factor to a terrorists’ way of life.”

Disharmony in the top national security organ had spilled into the public domain. Kenya’s national security organs consist of KDF (General JuliusKarangi), the police (Inspector General David Kimaiyo), and the National Intelligence Service (Michael Gachangi and Joseph ole Lenku). The President holds overall command as the Commander-in-Chief. All three organs are not subordinate to one another and all have direct functions with the president.

Already one arm, the KDF, had kicked out the other, police, via a fatal shot at Munene leaving the military with the take-over of operations at Westgate. The police suffered another blow from its colleague, the National Intelligence Service and Gachangi. In public it lay all the blame on the doormat of the police claiming they had issued specific warnings of the looming attack to the police.

The prevailing public image of the police is one of an oppressive, corrupt force. The police are routinely rated as one of the most corrupt and ineffective institutions within the country by non governmental and spy agencies. On the other hand, the KDF is perceived as a valiant force defending Kenya’s national borders and pride.

It was easy to counter-terrorise the public with this unhelpful information to undermine the police. A gullible public was ripe to accept any force with any arsenal, frighteningly even chemical weapons, so long as that guaranteed a quick end to the ordeal. The KDF were welcomed like conquering heroes of liberation as their weaponry trundled towards Westgate.

The public was now held in thrall by terror, consuming all statements and just wishing for a good message from the head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta, that it was all just a bad, national nightmare and that by daylight it would be time for Kenyans to, once again, accept and move on.

White Widow

Quickly the military, taking over the reigns, issued the following statement: “We have an idea who these people are and they are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world,” General Julius Karangi, September 23.

The horrified public was informed the “white widow” Samantha Lewthwaite lead a gang of Britons, Americans and other nationals in the attack. The police had held it was merely Al-Shabab, but the military wanted to ratchet up the stakes to make it appear it was the global organization of Al-Qaeda. After all, a critical meeting of the UN was on the verge of occurring and it was a good time to attack the western “non-essential contact” diplomatic strategy.

To escalate the attack to make it worthy of KDF involvement, smoke started spiraling out of the doomed Mall and where there is smoke, there is a fire. “That fire was controlled by human hands for hours and hours,” a fire marshal said at the scene. Just like the journalists, the firemen were not allowed to perform their duties to fight the fire.

Meanwhile the Interior Ministry informed a distressed public that the attackers, holding captives, had started the fire by re-entering a floor level –the same floor the Ministry had declared earlier as liberated.

“We bombed the back of the building so that we can gain access into the mall and at the same time shower some natural light inside because the building is dark and they (attackers) have switched off all the lights,” said a specialist KDF fighter who believed police were incompetent for the operation. “We tried but the fire was too much than we expected and none of our fighters have gone inside yet.”


An expert says the fire was meant to defeat STTW (See Through The Wall) technology which was available as part of the arsenal to flush out the attackers. Designed for use in urban warfare, STTW surveillance device uses WiFi radio waves to see through walls to detect moving personnel targets.

The stealth device, the size of a laptop, cannot be detected because it does not use radio waves. Already, the Kenya Wildlife Society (KWS) rangers are using heat seeking drones to identify humans and animals in the wild as a way of combating poaching. A fire, as lessons were learnt from the recent Jomo Kenyatta International Airport fire, is the only way to melt down CCTV surveillance and at the same time cover from satellite and see through wall technology.

“The heat from the fire is picked up first, spreading a white blind sheet because its intensity will be much more than of the human body or the firing weapon. The rational for the fire was for cover … probably from the terrorists (attackers)” a surveillance expert says. Cover for what? Shop owners in the mall are still counting losses to looters, with the KDF admitting it had stashed some cash on behalf of some of the tenants.

Meanwhile, the twitter wars within the top security echelons escalated. Upon realizing that he had lost his field commander, Inspector of Police David Kimaiyo, was compelled to tweet out re-assertions that it is the police who were in control and they were on the verge of ending the crisis and at the same time freeing more captives. He was losing his command and he desperately needed to show police was not incompetent. “Taken control of all the floors. We’re not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them. IG” Kimaiyo had no authority to communicate such messages to the public. Like the National Assembly and the Defence Secretary he had already been sidelined from Westgate without his knowing.


To twist the knife in the wound, the military started issuing its own competing statement shortly later that would culminate in a comedy of tragic errors on September 24 when all three security organs issued different statements asserting their control of operations in Westgate.

This was triggered by the interior ministry at 11.51 pm: “We are in control of Westgate.” Quickly the police followed: at 12.03 am “We are in charge of West Gate situation and more information will come your way.”

KDF was to follow pouring cold water on the triumphant announcement of the Interior Ministry and the Police. At 1.22 am it dashed everyone’s hopes: “KDF continue to secure the Westgate mall building. Official statement on status of the operation to be issued later.”

Meanwhile, at the Hague, deputy president Ruto applied to the International Criminal Court (ICC) trying him at the Hague: “Accordingly, in the immediacy, Mr Ruto, as the serving deputy president of Kenya, is required to return to Kenya to discharge his ordinary constitutional duties, which include participating in security briefings and consultations and involvement in other ongoing and very sensitive national security investigations, the details of which cannot be gone into in this filing,” he said through his lead counsel Karim Khan.

It was not the truth, yet the sitting judges swallowed the bait, hook line and sinker.

According to the Kenyan Constituion, the Deputy President office, irrespective of the nholder, plays no part in the Security Council. The office does not participate in security briefing. The Constitution does not give the office of the Deputy President “involvement in other ongoing and very sensitive national security investigations.”

This blatant lie to the ICC judges took place on the third day of the terror madness that was occurring in Kenya.

Next: Part 6 – Nairobi Mall Killing: Westgate, KDF, Uhuru, Ruto, US and ICC link

About Argwings

Freelance Investigative Journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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