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Kenya

Trial of four men in connection with Kenya's Westgate mall massacre begins

The trial of four men charged in connection with Kenya's Westgate mall massacre has begun. The attack, which killed at least 67 people, was claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shebab insurgents.

The men went on trial Wednesday for lending support to the gunmen that carried out the September 21 attack on the Westage mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67 people.

Prosecutors say the men committed a "terrorist act" under Kenya's anti-terrorism laws and used false documents. The four allegedly lent support and shelter to the gunmen.

The defendants - Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah Omar, Hussein Hassan,
and Adan Mohamed Ibrahim - have all pleaded not guilty.

The court heard testimony from Westgate guard Stephen Juma who told the court he saw three gunmen exit a white car that pulled up outside the mall.

"I couldn't recognize them since they had covered their heads and faces with black headscarves," said Juma.

It is now believed that there were a total of four gunmen in the Westgate siege, not the dozen that security forces initially reported, and all are believed to have died during the attack.

Like the gunmen, the four on trial are all ethnic Somalis, however it is unclear whether they are Somali or Kenyan citizens.

Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shebab claimed the attack and said it was a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia, where they are fighting extremists as part of an African Union force.

The mall was under siege for four days and by the end of a raid by Kenyan authorities, part of the mall's roof had collapsed and caught on fire, burying and burning bodies under tons of rubble. Therefore some officials have suggested that as many as 94 could have died in the attack.

hc/mz (Reuters, AFP)

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