Westgate attack: MPs to call for refugee camps to close
A Kenyan parliamentary committee is to call for camps for Somali refugees in the country to close in the wake of the Westgate mall attack, a senior MP says.
Ndung’u Gethenji, head of the defence committee, told the BBC he had reports that “some of these facilities are being used as a training ground”.
More than 500,000 Somalis have sought refuge from war and poverty in Kenya.
Officials say 67 people died after militants from Somalia’s al-Shabab stormed the Westgate on 21 September.
Five militants were killed by security forces during the four-day siege, while nine people are in custody after being arrested in connection with the attacks, the authorities say.
Al-Shabab, a Somali Islamist group, said the attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.
Mr Gethenji said that Kenya had to rethink “its hospitality in supporting refugee camps within our borders”.
Kenya is host to the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab – home to about half a million people – while it is believed that more than 30,000 Somali refugees live in Nairobi alone.
The BBC’s Robert Kiptoo in Nairobi says many people in the city would like Somali refugees to return home – partly for security reasons but also because the influx has led to steep rises in rents, especially in the mainly ethnic Somali district of Eastleigh.
Kenya: Major attacks
- 1998: US embassy in Nairobi bombed, killing 224 people – one of al-Qaeda’s first international attacks
- 2002: Attack on Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa kills 10 Kenyans. Simultaneous rocket attack on an Israeli airliner fails
- 2011: Suspected al-Shabab militants raid Kenyan coastal resorts and a refugee camp, targeting and kidnapping foreigners
- 2011: Kenya sends troops into Somalia to tackle al-Shabab
- 2011-13: Numerous grenade attacks near Somali border and in Nairobi
However, our correspondent says the repatriation of all refugees is unlikely to happen, as the camps are controlled by the UNHCR, which had permission from the government to open them.
Such a move would also contravene international agreements, he notes.
Last year the Kenyan government announced a plan to move all asylum seekers and refugees out of urban areas – a plan which was denounced as unlawful by human rights groups.
Missing toll drops
Earlier the Kenyan Red Cross said the number of missing after the Westgate shopping centre attack had dropped to 39 from an initial figure of 61.
Fourteen of the missing have been found alive and seven bodies have been identified, it said.
A Red Cross tracing manager has told the BBC that some of those who were classed as missing were counted because of “reports from people who could not get through to their relatives on the phone and thought they might have been at the mall”.
The government has said there are hardly any people still unaccounted for after the attack, and that it did not think any hostages were killed when a car park collapsed inside the mall, ending the siege.
However, the rubble is still being moved, so Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku has said it is possible more bodies might yet be discovered.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s joint parliamentary defence and national security committees have started a probe into alleged intelligence failings over the Westgate attack.
Mr Gethenji said MPs would question security chiefs, including the head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Michael Gichangi.
The MPs visited the Westgate site on Monday as part of their inquiries.
Security sources have told the BBC that the militants rented a shop at Westgate in the weeks leading up to the siege.
Mr Gethenji told the BBC last week that “people need to know the exact lapses in the security system that possibly allowed this event to take place”.
Kenyan newspapers have reported that the NIS warned a year ago of the presence of suspected al-Shabab militants in the capital and that they were planning suicide attacks, including on the Westgate shopping centre.
The Daily Nation newspaper has reported that Kenyan intelligence had established that al-Shabab leaders had begun singling out Westgate and the Holy Family Basilica for attack early this year.
Watch: Nairobi’s Asian Muslim community join hands for a human chain around the Westgate mall
Government figures said to have received the intelligence briefings include Mr Lenku, Treasury Minister Julius Rotich, Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohammed, Defence Minister Raychelle Omamo and Kenya Defence Forces chief Julius Karangi.
On Sunday, Mr Lenku refused to answer questions on the issue, saying the information was confidential and would not be discussed in public.
However, a senior interior ministry official earlier denied that ministers had ignored intelligence warnings.
The official – who was speaking on condition of anonymity – told the BBC the government received intelligence daily, that action was taken and that many attacks had been averted.