Westgate Mall Attacks: Kenyan Law Enforcement Blunders Revealed in NYPD Report

On November 1,Police Team 2013, the NYPD released a 34-page analysis report on the September 21st attacks in which four men wielding grenades and assault rifles killed 67 people at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. The attack was Kenya’s largest loss of life due to terrorism since the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy, and was affiliated with the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab.

In addition to creating a comprehensive timeline for the event, the NYPD report concluded that several factors resulted in “confusion, uncertainty, and inaccurate reporting” on behalf of the on-scene commanders and the Kenyan government. These factors include:

  • Transfer of operations from the police to the military, resulting in Kenya Defense Forces killing one police officer and wounding another.
  • Official press release stating “10 to 15 terrorists attacked the mall and were holding hostages” while the NYPD identified only four terrorist attackers.
  • Kenya Defense Forces starting a fire inside the building by firing “a high explosive anti-tank rocket as part of their operation to neutralize the terrorists”, resulting in the partial collapse of a portion of the mall, and Kenyan officials attributing the fire to “the terrorists setting mattresses on fire.”

These sources of confusion and others detracted from the credibility of the Kenyan government in their management of the event, and thereby gave credit to the NYPD’s highly objective report.

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/s_4986