Al-Shabab say Kenya mall rubble hides 137 bodies
The militant group behind the takeover of Nairobi's Westgate mall claimed yesterday that government forces used chemical weapons in their assault on the building, then carried out "a demolition" to cover evidence and buried 137 hostages.
In a series of Twitter posts from an account believed to be genuine, al-Shabab said that "having failed to defeat the mujahideen inside the mall, the Kenyan govt disseminated chemical gases to end the siege".
They added "to cover their crime, the Kenyan govt carried out a demolition to the building, burying evidence and all hostages under the rubble".
Government spokesman Manoah Esipisu immediately denied the claim, saying no chemical weapons were used and that the official civilian death toll remained 61.
"Al-Shabab is known for wild allegations and there is absolutely no truth to what they're saying," he said.
Esipisu said floors of the building collapsed after a fire started by the al-Shabab attackers caused structural weakness in a third-floor car park, which then came down onto the second floor and brought it down onto the first or ground floor.
He said there were known to be eight civilians in the rubble, which were included in the government's official death estimate. There could be several terrorists also buried, he said.
The process of retrieving bodies from inside the mall had still not begun yesterday morning, possibly indicating the site was not considered secure. However, a morgue official said they were ready to enter the building soon.