By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A New York Police Department report on September's Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that suggests the terrorist gunmen may have escaped does not reflect the United States government position, the top U.S. State Department official for Africa said Friday.
The NYPD report, released earlier this week, angered the Kenyan government for suggesting the four gunmen from the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab may have escaped. Kenyan and Western officials have said the evidence suggests the four gunmen died inside the mall and that their remains have been recovered. The FBI worked closely with Kenyan officials during the investigation.
At least 67 people were killed in the four-day siege on the mall. The NYPD report says that "it is unknown if the terrorists were killed or escaped the mall." Other parts of the report suggests they were seeking an escape route.
"That report has no connection with any official U.S. government reporting. It was not shared with us and we don't share the conclusions that were in the report," Assistant Secretary of State Linda Greenfield-Thomas said. Greenfield-Thomas, who represented the U.S. at Kenya's celebration of its 50th anniversary of independence from Britain on Thursday, met with top Kenyan officials on her trip. She said the NYPD report was brought up in one meeting and that she told the Kenyan delegation that the report was not sanctioned by the U.S. government and does not reflect the U.S. position.
Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, a Kenyan military spokesman, on Thursday said the bodies of the four attackers were discovered and dismissed the NYPD report, saying it used secondary information and that NYPD did not have representatives among the group of western investigators assisting Kenya with the probe.
At an NYPD briefing on Tuesday for corporate security officials, Lt. Kevin Yorke of the Intelligence Division presented an analysis of the Kenyan attack and the response by authorities there that he said was "based solely on open-source information we gathered and is unclassified."
Much of the presentation focused on closed-circuit footage of the four shooters during the first 12 hours of the siege. One segment showed the men hiding out in a storage area until one disabled a camera. Yorke said it was the last known images of the terrorists, and questioned why they weren't seen again even though other closed-circuit cameras around the mall were running for another 34 hours. Power to the mall and the CCTV camera feeds were cut on Monday at 11 a.m., the NYPD report says.
The NYPD report may only add to the cloudy information surrounding the mall attack, which has been troubled by inaccuracy from the start of the attack, when the first reports from the mall suggested a bank robbery was under way. Other statements and reports that turned out to false include:
— Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said that 10 to 15 terrorists carried out the attack. In truth there were only four attackers, officials now say.
— Lenku said an unknown number of hostages were being held. Officials now say no hostages were ever held.
— News reports attributed to unidentified officials said the attackers had rented a shop at the mall and installed weaponry including belt-fed machine guns. Officials say there is no evidence that is true.
— Kenya's president and foreign minister issued statements that some of the attackers came from the U.S. and Britain. There is no evidence that is true, though one attacker did spend time in Norway.
— News reports that some of the attackers may have escaped from the mall after changing clothes. There is no evidence that is true, officials now say.