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Two KDF soldiers detained for Westgate 'looting'

29 October 2013, 17:58

Nairobi - Gen. Julius Karangi said Tuesday that two soldiers have been dismissed and detained for stealing items during the deadly siege last month of Westgate Mall.

A third soldier was being investigated.

He said that Victor Otieno and Victor Ashiundu were found with mobile phones, cameras and chargers that were "stolen" from the mall during the siege.

The military had previously said soldiers only took water from the mall during the siege in which at least 67 people were killed.

But security camera video recently seen by The Associated Press showed cops carrying bags heavy with items as they walked out of a store during the four-day siege of the upscale Westgate Mall.


"Discipline is our core driving point and we are not playing with this issue. That is why we have taken action on these soldiers," Karangi told a news briefing, adding the guilty men had stolen mobile phones and cameras.

At least 67 people were killed when Al- Shabaab militants raided the upmarket Westgate mall on Sept. 21, hurling grenades and spraying bullets at shoppers as a punishment for Kenya sending KDF to Somalia.

Locals initially praised the soldiers but their support evaporated as shop owners returned to the mall to find their stores ransacked, with many reporting phones, expensive Swiss watches, jewellery, designer clothes and other luxury items as stolen.

Cash from tills was also missing, traders said, while footage from inside the mall uploaded on social media and aired by various local media stations showed a cafe littered with empty beer bottles.

Damage control

Anger over looting claims intensified when closed circuit television footage obtained by Reuters and others showed soldiers leaving the Nakumatt supermarket with plastic paper bags.

KDF chiefs initially denied any looting had taken place, saying the soldiers had only taken water bottles from Nakumatt to quench their thirst. A parliamentary inquiry into the Westgate siege completely exonerated the soldiers.

Local media have heavily criticised the army, which until now has been viewed as one of the country's most professional institutions, rarely mired in the frequent corruption scandals that have tainted the police and civil service over the years.

More than one month after the Westgate attack - the worst on Kenyan soil since Al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people - little is still known about how the militants carried out their raid.

Officials say as few as four gunmen may have carried out the attack, down from initial government estimates of 10-15, leaving many Kenyans questioning how such a small group could have held off hundreds of elite soldiers for four days.

- AP


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