NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 27 – Contradictions and accusations were the order on day four of the hearing of the case against Mohamed Abdi, Liban Omar, Adan Mohamed and Hussein Mustafah charged in connection with the September 21, 2013 Westgate terrorist attack.
Nairobi County Deputy Police Commander Moses Ombati was particularly hard pressed to explain what happened to the body of a terrorist he said was killed under his command, in the early hours of what turned out to be a four-day siege.
“It was between 1pm and 2pm when a terrorist started firing at us from the second floor of the supermarket (Nakumatt). He was hiding behind some mattresses and shot one of those under my command dead. We fired back and shot him dead too,” Ombati testified before Acting Chief Magistrate Daniel Ochenja on Monday.
Ombati was however unable to explain what happened to the body of the terrorist despite prodding from prosecuting attorney Mungai Warui, defence counsel Mbugua Mureithi and Ochenja himself.
“We were not bothered with him. We recovered his AK47 and proceeded to exit the building after being instructed that the Kenya Defence Forces would be taking over,” he explained.
Mureithi was not convinced and accused Ombati of lying as he mentioned nothing of “killing a terrorist” in the statement he recorded on the fourth day of the siege.
“This most heroic and dramatic event is not in your statement. In your 25 years experience as a law officer you know information is key and you say there’s a dead body of a terrorist and you don’t even bother to recover anything? And I’ll tell you why Mr Ombati… because all that did not happen. You didn’t kill any terrorist,” Mureithi countered.
He went on to make the unsubstantiated, but widely held belief in the immediate aftermath of the siege that the General Service Unit (GSU) officers killed in the siege died from friendly fire.
“Inside the mall we have police officers with guns and you have KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) with guns. I want to put it to you that you are covering for the KDF. Your men were killed by Kenya Defence Forces officers and that is why you now come with a dramatic allegation that you even killed a terrorist,” the lawyer charged.
Ombati in turn accused Mureithi of falling prey to speculation and attributed the inconsistency between his statement and testimony to “trauma.”
“I don’t want us to mix the civilian way of imagination of an operation like that one… what we went through was not easy. Some things you just don’t want to remember,” he defended himself.
This was despite his having claimed that he had been through situations similar to the Westgate terror attack before, but could not divulge the details due to security concerns.
Ombati was the last of three witnesses who gave their testimony on Monday bringing the number of prosecution witnesses who have testified so far to nine.
But despite an order from Ochenja on January 17 that Warui provide the defence with all their witness statements, it emerged on Monday that witness number eight, Corporal Phineas Rithi, recorded his statement as late as Friday.
Also in the defence’s favour, his testimony raised the question of who between him and prosecution witness seven, Corporal Nicholas Kaberia, was lying.
“If you don’t know, say you’re not sure. How can Kaberia say he was in hospital for two days after being shot on the 21st while you claim to have taken him home on the same day?” Ochenja posed.