Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years
Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, right, and his co-accused Hassan Hussein Mustafa stood accused of being accessories in the Westgate Mall attack of September 2013, Nairobi, October 30, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years
  • Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants
  • The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital

NAIROBI: A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based extremist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.

The accused asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.

“Despite mitigation by their defense lawyers on their innocence, the offense committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.

He sentenced the men to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists, but ordered they serve both terms together. Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing extremist propaganda material on his laptop.

He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account their pre-trial detention.

The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.

A four-day siege ensued — much of it broadcast live on television — during which Kenyan security forces tried to flush out the gunmen and take back the high-end retail complex.

Although there was no specific evidence Abdi and Mustafa had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amounted to supporting the armed rampage, and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.

The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.
The Westgate attack was claimed by Al-Shabab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the extremist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students. Many were shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabab warned in a January statement that Kenya “will never be safe” as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.


US says China committed ‘genocide’ against Uighur, minority groups in Xinjiang

US says China committed ‘genocide’ against Uighur, minority groups in Xinjiang
Updated 19 January 2021

US says China committed ‘genocide’ against Uighur, minority groups in Xinjiang

US says China committed ‘genocide’ against Uighur, minority groups in Xinjiang
  • Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking Muslims are incarcerated in camps

WASHINGTON: The US declared Tuesday that China is carrying out genocide against the Uighurs and other mostly Muslim people, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dramatically raising pressure over Beijing's sweeping incarceration of minorities on his last full day in office.
“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“We will not remain silent. If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future,” he said.
Pompeo's vociferous criticism of Beijing has been a hallmark of his tenure but he has earlier danced around directly alleging genocide, saying repeatedly that the treatment of Uighurs was reminiscent of Nazi Germany's policies.
Pompeo urged all international bodies including courts to take up cases over China's treatment of the Uighurs and voiced confidence that the US would keep raising pressure.
Rights groups believe that at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking Muslims are incarcerated in camps in the western region of Xinjiang.
Witnesses and activists say that China is seeking to forcibly integrate the Uighurs into the majority Han culture by eradicating Islamic customs, including by forcing Muslims to eat pork and drink alcohol, forbidden by their faith.
China denies wrongdoing and contends that its camps are vocational training centers meant to reduce the allure of Islamic extremism in the wake of attacks.
Unlike many decisions by Pompeo seen as boxing in President-elect Joe Biden, the genocide declaration could be welcomed by the new administration.
Biden himself had accused outgoing president Donald Trump of not doing enough on human rights in China, with his campaign in August using the term genocide when describing the “unspeakable oppression” of the Uighurs and other minorities.
Pompeo's declaration means that the Biden administration could stand by the genocide declaration while potentially finding areas of cooperation with China without facing Beijing's anger for issuing the statement.
Janet Yellen, Biden's nominee to be treasury secretary, in her confirmation hearing Tuesday vowed to use the “full array of tools” against China of trade and other purported abuses.
The Trump administration has already taken a number of steps to pressure China over its treatment of the Uighurs, including blocking all imports of cotton from Xinjiang -- one of the major global producers of yarn used in textile manufacturing.
Successive US administrations have been cautious about using the term genocide, mindful of legal implications at home and abroad.
George W. Bush's administration described Sudan's scorched-earth campaign in Darfur as genocide, while Barack Obama's administration said likewise about Daesh extremist group's mass killings, rape and enslavement of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities.
Lawmakers across the political spectrum have called on the US to declare that China is carrying out genocide against the Uighurs, saying that evidence was increasingly clear.
Representative Michael Waltz, a Republican, praised Pompeo's declaration as acknowledging reality and said it “serves notice to the rest of the world in how they should deal with the Chinese Communist Party.”
In a study last year, German researcher Adrian Zenz found that China has forcibly sterilized large numbers of Uighur women and pressured them to abort pregnancies that exceed birth quotas. China denied the account, saying that Uighur women were breaking free from “extremism” by using contraception.
Pompeo in his statement called on China to “abolish its system of internment, detention camps, house arrest and forced labor” and “cease coercive population control measures, including forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced birth control, and the removal of children from their families.”
He also urged China to “end all torture and abuse” in custody and allow Uighurs and other minorities to emigrate.