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Trail of Kenyan mall attack leads investigators to Norway

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Reuters

(Read caption) A gunman aims his rifle inside a store during an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in a frame taken from video footage by security cameras inside the mall in Nairobi. Investigators believe the man pictured may be Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, a Norwegian citizen born in Somalia.

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The tangled trail of last month's terrorist attack on a Kenyan shopping mall has led investigators more than 4,000 miles to the north in Norway, according to local police.

The New York Times reports that Norwegian police are investigating whether Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, a Norwegian citizen born in Somalia, was one of at least four militants involved in the September attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that left more than 60 people dead. The police have been questioning friends and family of Mr. Dhuhulow.

His sister, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that officers from the Norwegian security police had asked her whether her brother had placed calls from Nairobi, including from the Westgate shopping mall, during the siege. She said that he had not and that the family was unaware of any role he might have played in the attack.

“My mother and father and me, we don’t even know if he is dead or alive,” she said. “We are waiting for the whole issue to become clearer.”

A spokesman for the Norwegian Police Security Service, Martin Bernsen, said investigators were also unsure whether Mr. Dhuhulow was still alive. Several explosions and a fire at the mall have made it difficult to distinguish between the remains of the victims and attackers. The authorities have been unable thus far to identify any of the militants among the bodies pulled from the rubble.

According to his sister, Dhuhulow has been taking "long vacations" to Somalia – home of Al Shabab, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attack – since 2009. The Times adds that a man with the same name as Dhuhulow was arrested in Somalia in March in connection with the murder of a radio journalist, but was later released for lack of evidence.

Review of surveillance footage is helping to fill in some of the blanks surrounding the attack, which increasingly appears to have been committed by attackers who were chillingly calm at the time, reports CNN.

As they strolled through Westgate Mall, guns strapped to their torsos, the attackers chatted on their cell phones while they sprayed bullets at terrified shoppers.

Ruthless and nonchalant, they randomly gunned down shoppers at the upscale mall in the Kenyan capital.

At one point, they took turns to pray, removing shoes to perform the ritual washing in a room stacked with boxes. They bowed down in Islamic prayer, taking a break from incessant gunfire.

In addition to video evidence, authorities are sifting through physical evidence from the scene, including weapons and remains presumed to belong to attackers, writes the Associated Press.

But despite – or because of – the wealth of witnesses, physical evidence, and video documentation, many aspects of the massive mall attack remain mysterious to investigators. Agence France-Presse presents some of the remaining questions, including the final official death toll, the precise names of the attackers, and the possible involvement of British Muslim convert Samantha Lewthwaite, sometimes referred to as "the White Widow."

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A recent Monitor story looked at Ms. Lewthwaite's involvement in a high-profile terror cell in Kenya and her links to a man that US Navy SEALs tried to capture in a raid in Somalia.

US officials Monday named Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir “Ikrima” as the “high value target” Seal Team Six was hunting. He escaped unharmed as the commandos retreated under heavy fire to avoid civilian casualties.

Reports by Kenya’s National Intelligence Service, seen by The Christian Science Monitor, say Ikrima, who is Kenyan, was “coordinator” of a cell including Ms. Lewthwaite and another Briton, Jermaine Grant, that planned “multiple attacks” on targets in Nairobi in late 2011 and early 2012.

The impact of the Kenyan mall attack is resonating internationally in a variety of additional ways. Security in Uganda has been stepped up after the US warned of a terror threat similar to the mall attack, the BBC reported this week. A judge in California ruled in favor of a man that his ex-wife may not take their 19-month-old daughter to Kenya, the mother's home country, out of concerns of future terrorism. And the city of London has reviewed its security plan in the wake of the Kenya attack, reports the Evening Standard.


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