Kenya Westgate attackers were suicide squad: Somali insurgent group

NAIROBI (AFP) - Gunmen who massacred at least 67 people in Kenya's Westgate mall in September were special suicide commandos, Somalia's Shebab insurgents said on Tuesday, rubbishing reports the men had tried to escape.

Members of a "martyrdom brigade", the gunmen were "brothers who have volunteered to enter into enemy ranks and cause havoc before being killed by the enemy", the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab said in the latest issue of their online magazine.

While not specifically saying they had died, the Shebab dismissed initial reports by Kenya's army chief Julius Karangi that the men had attempted to flee.

"Karangi even had the audacity to claim that the martyrdom-seeking mujahedeen were seeking to abscond and escape from the mall," read the magazine.

The magazine - a special edition released on Tuesday via extremist websites and dedicated to the four-day Westgate siege - was published a day after four men appeared in a Nairobi court charged with "supporting a terrorist group" over the attack.

Slickly produced and written in both English and East Africa's Swahili language, the magazine is crammed with gruesome photographs of the attack, and gloating messages lauding the success of the massacre.

"Westgate was not a fight, it was a message," the magazine read, quoting Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage. "The real fight is on the way."

It did not name or say how many gunmen there were, but police believe there to have been only four attackers, and not the dozen that security forces had initially reported.

Interpol is assisting Kenya in trying to identify four bodies suspected to be those of the gunmen.

However, the media has previously speculated the gunmen may have escaped in the chaos of the fighting, although security sources say they died in a final stand off with Kenyan commandos, who ended the fight by firing anti-tank rockets that sparked a fierce fire.

Witnesses in the mall described how the fighters stormed the crowded complex, firing from the hip and hurling grenades at shoppers and staff.

The Kenyan Red Cross has said some 20 people are still missing, and there are fears more bodies could be found in the wreckage of the mall.

"Westgate was meant to send a message to Kenyans: get out of Somalia and stop your aggressions against Muslims," the magazine read.

It also accused Kenya's government for the assassination last month of a prominent radical cleric in Kenya's port city of Mombasa, Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail, claims the government has repeatedly denied.

Kenya invaded southern Somalia to attack Shebab bases two years ago, and later joined the 17,700-strong African Union force deployed in the country.

"After Kenya's defiance and its insistence of staying in Somalia, Kenyans should ask themselves when and where will the next attack be? How safe are you in Kenya?" the magazine added.

"If you want peace, remove your military from the Muslim lands that they have invaded."

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