Kenya West Gate killers: who were they?

Posted: September 21, 2014 in Africa News


The faces of the four men who shocked the world by butchering dozens of innocent people at
Westgate Shopping Mall a year ago can now be revealed.

The Sunday Nation has gained exclusive access to the report of the most comprehensive investigation
yet into the attack that details the elaborate planning the terrorists engaged in before performing one of the most heinous assaults
witnessed on Kenyan soil, with the aid of a network of collaborators in both Kenya and Somalia.

The report by analysts from the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom) reveals the terrorists to have been between 19 and 23 years old and finds that they enjoyed the support of a network of planners
that can be traced right to the top of Al-Shabaab chain of command.

The mall killers are identified as: Hassan Abdi Mohamed Dhuhulow — a Norwegian national of
Somali origin, Somali national Yahye Osman Ahmed (also known as Arab or Yahya Golis), Mohamed Abdi Nur Sai and Ahmed Hassan Abukar, both refugees from Somalia.
The attackers, according to security briefs shared by regional security chiefs under Amisom, were trained in Somalia before they worked their way into Kenya to execute their heinous plan.

In startling detail that shows the scale of planning that went into the attack, the report reveals that
Shabaab leadership gave up on terror cells embedded in Nairobi’s Majengo area and opted to
station a planning centre at the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County that primarily hosts South
Sudanese nationals and is lightly policed, unlike the heavily watched Dadaab refugee camp which
hosts nearly half a million Somali refugees.

For the first time, the role of the coordinator of the attack, a Shabaab commander known as Hassan
Abdulkadir Turyare, is revealed.
According to the report, the cell members entered Kenya through Uganda in late June 2013 and
registered their SIM cards using fraudulently acquired identity cards.
They then embarked on preparations including surveys of the targets before, shortly after midday on September 21, storming the mall and leaving a trail of death, with victims as old as 78 years and
as young as eight, and the most vulnerable — including pregnant women — being killed in cold

According to the report, investigators are now certain that the four attackers were themselves
killed under fire from security agencies, a finding which is consistent with the FBI’s conclusions on the fate of the four terrorists.

“We believe, as do the Kenyan authorities, that the four gunmen inside the mall were killed. Our ERT
(Evidence Response Team) made significant finds, and there is no evidence that any of the attackers
escaped from the area where they made their last stand,” an FBI legal attaché said. “(If) the attackers
escaped, it would have been publicly celebrated and exploited for propaganda purposes by Al-
Shabaab. That hasn’t happened.”

Investigators have now established that Turyare, the planning coordinator, bought the vehicle used
by the attackers on September 6.
On September 8 — 13 days before the attack — Turyare purchased third-party insurance for the car
whose documents were fake or fraudulently acquired.


Before then, Al-Shabaab had been running into frustration in their attempts to stage a major attack
in Kenya.

The extremist group had planned strikes in Kenya around the General Election and last year’s Easter
holiday but these attempts had been quietly thwarted by security agencies. One such plot was
confirmed by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who spoke in April of intelligence coordination that
had blocked efforts to sow civil strife by killing key leaders during the election.

“After failing to conduct a major attack during the General Election and Ramadhan period, Al-Shabaab
embarked on sending to Kenya a new set of Amniyat (a shadowy group of suicide bombers within the group), who were not known to the (Kenyan) government database, hence could not be identified,” says the report.

It adds: “This was in a bid to give their operations new life and upscale their activities in the country.

The militia adopted a new strategy and was keen to carry out an attack in the country. The group
already had explosives for attacks, and intensive infrastructure in the country.”

It turns out that the new operatives would slip into the country through a circuitous route, first flying to Uganda and then getting into Kenya through illegal entry points and the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County.

Having failed in efforts to stage a bombing, the Shabaab had turned to a “Mumbai-style attack”, so-called after the 2008 four-day siege in India where gunmen killed 164 people.

“The Shabaab chose Kakuma for the purposes of escaping surveillance and exploiting the security
the camp offers after realising that local cells, particularly the Majengo cell, had been under observation and most of its members had been
killed while committing other crimes. Thus it was easy to adopt the Mumbai style attack due to the
fact that logistics for other modes of attack would not have been easy to organise, besides being identified.”

Investigations have established that the Westgate Mall attack was sanctioned and directed by the
then Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane, who was killed in an American military air strike in Somalia on September 1.


Godane, an Afghan-trained jihadi, had acquired notoriety for radicalising the Shabaab and running assassination and bomb squads in Somalia.

Investigators now say that apart from Kakuma, the team conducted its operational planning mainly in
buildings on Third Street and Sixth Street in Eastleigh, Nairobi.

During this time, one of the attackers, Abdi Nur, reactivated contact with former associates based at the Kakuma camp.

The report says that four cell members, including two assailants, visited Westgate on September 9,
14 and 15 to conduct final reconnaissance.

In the wee hours of the morning of the attack, one of the chief organisers of the attack, a man
identified as Abdullahi Ali, sneaked back into Somalia through Wajir — leaving his charges to stage the horrendous act of terror.

Ongoing investigations have narrowed the number of assailants down to four who departed their safe
houses on Eastleigh’s Third and Sixth streets from 9 a.m., arriving at the Westgate Mall between 10
a.m. and 12.20 p.m. They struck at about 12.30 p.m., shocking the world with their senseless killing of innocent men, women and children.

Amisom analysts, who spoke to the Sunday Nation in confidence, said the attack was a wake-up call
to the international community who had previously written off Al-Shabaab as a major threat to
regional and international peace.

“It was against this realisation that concerted efforts were made by the entire region with the support of the international community to seek and dismantle Al-Shabaab network across the region and inside Somalia. This has led to the recent
killing of Ahmed Abdi Godane, Al-Shabaab’s top leader,” says the confidential report.

The analysts estimate that Al-Shabaab has been considerably weakened by the death of Godane and subsequent appointment of a field officer, Ahmed Diriye Abdikarim, as his successor.

The threat to Kenya had long been there but rose significantly when the Kenya Defence Forces launched an incursion into Somalia in October

The move by KDF followed a number of abductions of aid workers and tourists that dealt a serious
blow to Kenya’s tourism sector at the Coast.

In October 2011, a French woman was kidnapped by an armed gang on the resort island of Manda
and taken to Somalia. The disabled woman, 66, was attacked at her bungalow at Ras Kitau.
The government said it believed the abductors were Al-Shabaab militants. The kidnapping came
three weeks after a UK couple was attacked further north.

Gunmen shot dead David Tebbutt and kidnapped his wife Judith in Kiwayu. She was taken across
the border to Somalia and only released six months later.

Amisom analysts who spoke to the Sunday Nation said the threat of terrorism in the country increased significantly following Kenya’s support for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia in a bid to consolidate security in the
troubled neighbouring nation.
Consequently, Al-Shabaab began to issue attack threats targeted at the country and its establishments to force Kenya to terminate its
engagement with the TFG.


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