Kenya’s foreign minister claims “two or three Americans” and a British women were among the terrorists who attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
In an interview Monday with PBS, Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said, “From the information that we have, two or three Americans, and I think so far I have heard of one Brit.”
But despite the claim, American officials are still urging caution regarding naming the nationalities of the perpetrators and have not confirmed Mohamed's information.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed (Screenshot: PBS NewsHour)
Mohamed said the Americans are “young men, about between maybe 18 and 19,” adding that they are “of Somali origin or Arab origin, but that lived in the U.S., in Minnesota and one other place.”
The foreign minister noted that the British national is a woman. “She has, I think, done this many times before.” Her suggestion that an experienced British woman was involved has sparked rampant speculation in the British press as to whether she was referring to a radical Muslim activist nicknamed the "White Widow."
You can see the claims starting at the 4:19 mark:
Rumors of the possible attackers' origins started circulating Sunday afternoon after Twitter accounts allegedly linked to the terror group began posting names and cities the account said were indicative of the attackers inside the mall.
Despite the foreign minister’s claims, the U.S. government has not yet said definitively if Americans were involved. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday said the department had "no definitive evidence of the nationalities or the identities" of those who perpetrated the attack.
CBS News quoted White House spokesman Ben Rhodes saying, "We do monitor very carefully and have for some time been concerned about efforts by al-Shabab to recruit Americans or U.S. persons to come to Somalia.”
The Washington Post offered some details about the appearance of the attackers. Witnesses said one wore a white turban and others wore black head scarves. “Most were in civilian clothes, but a few donned camouflage fatigues. Some carried sophisticated machine guns, and others wielded the AK-47 rifles widely used by African insurgents.”
Notably, it reported they “barked orders in English.”
As TheBlaze reported last month, the Somali-based branch of Al Qaeda, al-Shabab, has been investing concerted efforts in recruiting Americans to its ranks. A video posted to YouTube over the summer aimed to lure Somali-American youths in Minnesota for jihad against “infidel forces,” with one activist comparing the experience to a visit to Disneyland.
According to Reuters, several dozen Americans have flown to Somalia to train with al-Shabab, many from the Somali immigrant community in Minneapolis-St. Paul. CBS reports that “at least 15 of the American recruits have already died in various terror operations, including suicide bombings.”
"This is not a local event. We are fighting global terrorism here and we have sufficient intel (intelligence) to suggest that," Julius Karangi, Kenya's chief of general staff, told Reuters.
The attackers were "clearly a multinational collection from all over the world," he said.
Reuters advised caution regarding the Kenyan claims about who was involved in the attack. It quoted an American national security source who said “it was still unclear how much hard evidence the Kenyans had.”
“A European security source said that Western authorities still had reason to be wary of claims by Kenyan officials of foreign involvement in the attacks,” Reuters added.
Foreign Minister Mohamed’s information contradicted Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku who said earlier on Monday that he believed all of the attackers were male, but that some had dressed as women which had fueled confusion.
The British newspaper the Independent on Tuesday reported that the foreign minister’s comments “have now fueled beliefs that the woman in question could be ‘White Widow’ Samantha Lewthwaite, already wanted by Kenyan police over alleged links to a terrorist cell suspected of plotting to bomb the countries coast.”
Lewthwaite is a British convert to Islam who is the widow of one of the suicide bombers involved in the July 7, 2005 London bombings, Jermaine Lindsay. The paper reports that she fled with her three children last year to east Africa and “has been on the run” for two years. She’s wanted in connection with a reported terrorist plot in Kenya.
The Independent reports:
Speculation is now growing that Lewthwaite could among those militants dead after one intelligence officer and two soldiers told Reuters that one of the dead attackers was a white woman.
Asked if the dead woman was Lewthwaite, the intelligence officer said: “We don't know.”
The Somalia based terrorist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Nairobi mall attack, during which Muslims were allowed to go free while non-Muslims were killed.
“These people who perpetrate these crimes didn't fall from outer space. They live among us. They live in our countries. Right? We know them. And I think it's time that we actually looked each other in the eye and said, listen, I think this neighbor of mine, yes, he must be planning something,” the Kenyan foreign minister said.