NAIROBI, KENYA — Two Kenyan soldiers were sacked for stealing items during the deadly siege last month of Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, Kenya’s military chief said Tuesday.
Gen. Julius Karangi, chief of Kenya’s military, identified the sacked soldiers as Victor Otieno and Victor Ashiundu and said they were in detention pending formal charges.
He said the two soldiers were found with mobile phones, cameras and chargers that were stolen from the mall during the siege.
“Discipline is our core driving point and we are not playing with this issue,” he said. “That is why we have taken action on these soldiers. Two of them have been jailed and dismissed while a third one is under probe.”
Karangi had previously said soldiers only took water from the mall during the Sept. 21 attack. But security camera video footage recently seen by The Associated Press shows some Kenyan forces carrying bags heavy with unknown items as they walked out of a store during the four-day siege of Nairobi’s most upscale mall.
In a separate development, police said they were set to charge five suspects over their alleged roles in the attack in which 67 people were killed.
The attack was the largest in Kenya since the 1998 bombings by al-Qaida of the United States Embassy in Nairobi. The Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibly for the mall attack, saying it was in retribution for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.
Many questions, including what caused a part of the mall to collapse, remain unanswered more than a month after the attack. Kenyan officials have urged patience, saying they need more time to investigate the scene.
Local and foreign investigators have since been digging through the rubble for evidence, and at least four bodies believed to be those mall’s attackers have been retrieved.
Ndegwa Muhoro, Kenya’s director of criminal investigations, said Tuesday that five suspects were in custody and that two other suspects believed to have played a role in the attack are still at large. He identified the wanted suspects as Kenyan national Abdikadir Haret Mohamed, who also is known as Mohamed Hussein, as well as a Somali national named Adan Dheq. Dheq also is known as Hussein Abdi Ali or Abdulahi Dugon Subow. The two suspects owned the Mitsubishu salon car registration that police seized outside the mall nearly a week after the attack. Police found explosives and weapons inside the car, he said.
“We will offer more than the Sh500,000 (about $5,800) as long as we can get the two men. They are key to our investigations for now,” David Kimaiyo, Kenya’s police chief, said Tuesday.
Police said investigators recently discovered an SMS that circulated among suspected terrorists on Sept. 17, four days before the attack.
That SMS, details of which have not been revealed, had been distributed among “some people who we now believe were principle suspects in the attack,” said Muhoro.