Israel warned Kenyan officials of impending attack before mall incident
Ministers received intelligence on impending assault, but did not act to prevent it, sources say
Kenya's government had been warned, including by Israel, of the high risk of an attack before Islamist gunmen's deadly assault on a Nairobi mall, security sources said yesterday.
Cabinet ministers and the army chief had received information warning of a plan to carry out a major attack, officials said, confirming an intelligence report leaked in Kenyan newspapers.
"Israel had warned of attacks on their business interests, but apart from just being tossed from one office to another, nothing was taken out of the intelligence reports," said one official.
On September 21, gunmen with automatic weapons and grenades burst into the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi in an attack that lasted four days and left at least 67 dead.
The Daily Nation reported that the treasury, interior, foreign affairs and defence ministers, as well as the army chief, had been told of an elevated risk.
The Westgate mall, popular with expatriates and wealthy Kenyans, is partly owned by Israelis and had long been considered a prime potential target.
A top-ranking official said on Friday that the military caused the collapse of three floors of the mall. Several members of the Kenyan forces involved in battle said that a fire broke out on Monday after Kenyans fired at least two bazooka anti-tank rockets at the gunmen, who were holed up in a strong room.
"In the end, we had to use full force, we had to finish with these guys," said one member of the elite force.
The account of the roof collapse raises the possibility that the military may have caused the deaths of hostages in its rescue attempt.
Security officials and rescuers are adamant that the part of the mall still standing has been thoroughly searched, but one section of the complex collapsed during the siege after the fire erupted.
Kenya's interior minister has insisted that only an "insignificant" number of bodies remain to be discovered.
The US State Department issued a warning against travel to Kenya which evoked sharp reaction from Nairobi. A statement issued by the foreign ministry condemned the travel warning, saying it is "unnecessary and uncalled for".
Additional reporting by Associated Press