Kenyan authorities investigate local role in Nairobi attack

Published: January 20, 2019

Investigators in Kenya are exploring the possibility that some of the militants who attacked a Nairobi hotel and office complex may not have been ethnic Somalis, stoking fears that militants are deepening their pools of recruitment in the region.

Officials have released few details about the five-man assault team that carried out Tuesday’s siege at the dusitD2 hotel complex, an attack that killed 21 people and was claimed by al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate.

But police, private security sources and local media reports have highlighted the involvement of a 26-year-old suspect identified in court documents as Ali Salim Gichunge, who was born and raised in central Kenya, as evidence of the group’s lure to some people outside its traditional strongholds.

“The government needs to look at (Gichunge’s) profile. How did he get to where he is?” said a private security official in Kenya, who asked not to be identified for operational reasons.

“If al-Shabaab can replicate this model, then there is a fundamental problem.”

All five assailants were killed in Tuesday’s attack, the country’s president said in a televised address the next morning. Police said on Friday they had detained nine other suspects in connection with the incident.

Five of the suspects, one of them listed as a Canadian citizen, were taken to a magistrate’s court and ordered detained for 30 days. Two were taxi drivers and one was a mobile phone financial services agent, court documents said.

The others have not appeared yet. They could have been released or they may be brought before a magistrate on Saturday. Police can hold suspects for 24 hours and need a court order to extend this.

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