A witness in the trial of four men accused of helping the gunmen behind Kenya’s Westgate mall massacre described Thursday how an attacker shouted out his allegiance to Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked Shebab.
“I saw two slim men in black head scarves and jungle green combat trousers, they had belts and ammunition,” said Thomas Kamau Ndung’u, a hairdresser in the mall, who gave evidence on the second day of the trial.
“One of the attackers shouted, ‘We are Al-Shebab'”.
The trial in Nairobi, which opened Wednesday, is hearing evidence from people who were at the mall when the gunmen launched their attack in September, killing at least 67 people.
“The attackers appeared to be of Somali origin, from how they were dressed and the identity they gave us when they shouted at us,” Ndung’u added.
The accused are charged with lending support to the attackers.
The four, Adan Mohamed Abidkadir Adan, Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah Omar and Hussein Hassan Mustafah, have all pleaded not guilty to charges of supporting a terrorist group.
The charge sheet gives no details of the nature of their alleged support, but security sources say the prosecution will argue they helped provide logistical support for the gunmen, including organizing accommodation.
Witnesses in the mall described how the fighters stormed the crowded complex, firing from the hip and hurling grenades at shoppers and staff.
Paul Bunzi, a top security guard at the mall, recalled how he hid under a car as “loud explosions” rocked the mall.
All the gunmen in the Westgate siege — understood to have totaled four, not the dozen that security forces initially reported — are believed to have died during the attack, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Somalia’s Islamist Shebab said the gunmen came from a special suicide commando brigade.
They said the attack was a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia, where they are fighting the extremists as part of an African Union force.
Two of the gunmen are named in court documents as Mohammed Abdinur Said and Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, a 23-year-old Somali who spent time in Norway.
Like the attackers, the four on trial are all ethnic Somalis, but it is unclear whether they are Somali or Kenyan citizens.
Western officials have suggested that as many as 94 people could have died in total in the attack.
Bodies were buried under tonnes of rubble after part of the mall’s roof collapsed at the end of the raid following an intense fire that burned for weeks.
The trial continues Friday, when two more witnesses are expected to give evidence.