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Kenyans demand answers in mall standoff

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By The Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:09 p.m.
 

NAIROBI, Kenya — Forensic experts sifted through the rubble at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall on Wednesday as many Kenyans demanded to know how 10 to 15 gunmen managed to hold off government security forces for more than three days.

More than 70 people, including five gunmen, were killed in the siege. The death toll was expected to rise as forensic experts from the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany helped Kenyan police search the mall.

Kenya Red Cross officials said 71 people remain missing. Meanwhile, authorities had not confirmed how many of the gunmen were unaccounted for by late Wednesday.

Flags throughout Kenya were flying at half staff as part of three days of national mourning declared by government officials.

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec, said the United States would help Kenyan investigators bring the instigators of the attack and siege to justice. The al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the assault, which began on Saturday.

“The United States has provided technical support and equipment to assist Kenyan security forces and medical responders,” Godec said in a statement. “At the request of the Kenyan government, we will provide additional assistance in the coming days to investigate this attack and to bring its organizers and perpetrators to justice. We will continue to work together with Kenya to stop the scourge of terrorism.”

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said forensic experts were carrying out DNA, fingerprint and ballistics analysis at the mall.

Engineers were also examining the structure to determine what caused three floors to collapse Monday. Some government officials blamed a fire they said was set by the militants, although Kenyan security forces set off a series of huge explosions to gain access.

Al-Shabab taunted Kenyans on Twitter, posting the Kenyan hotline numbers that families of missing people could contact. The group earlier claimed 137 bodies were buried in the rubble and that officials fired chemical agents into the mall to overwhelm the terrorists. The government denied the claims.

Many Kenyans called on the government to provide answers. A list of 85 questions, headed “We the People,” was circulating on the web, demanding to know how many hostages had died in the siege, what caused the floors to collapse and whether any of the assailants had escaped while disguised as hostages.

“Why won't they tell us how many hostages were rescued or where they were taken??? Why so much secrecy!” reads Question 35 on the list.

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