NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – If you followed the September 21, 2013 Westgate terror attack you, no doubt, saw his photo as it was plastered on the front pages of local and international publications as the world sought out as much information as it could on what turned out to be a four-day affair.
It’s a photo of him carrying a child in one hand and a gun in the other while a woman crouches behind him as he leads them out of the besieged Westgate mall.
No doubt, Constable Benjamin Chemjor is a hardened man and it comes as no surprise that he’s assigned to the Flying Squad of the Criminal Investigations Department.
And this hardened nature came out on the stand when he appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate Daniel Ochenja on Tuesday to testify in the case against Mohamed Abdi, Liban Omar, Adan Mohamed and Hussein Mustafah who are charged for aiding the attackers.
He gave the defence a hard time when they sought to discredit Deputy Nairobi County Commander Moses Ombati’s testimony that the team he led into the Westgate mall on that ill-fated Saturday killed one of the terrorists.
Chemjor who was part of the team was however backed into a corner when Ochenja demanded either a yes or no answer to the question of whether or not they shot and killed one of the terrorists during the assault described by Ombati on Monday and conceded grudgingly, “I don’t know.”
He was also loath to lend credibility to defence lawyer Mbugua Mureithi’s claim that the officers on their team were shot by the Kenya Defence Forces.
“I did not say Corporal Nurah was shot in the back. Your honour at no day a human being can tell you I saw the movement of a bullet and remember that your honour, the enemy position is not yet located, so we cannot prove it,” he argued with Ochenja and the defence.
But try as he might, the inconsistencies in his and Ombati’s testimonies were glaring including the number and position of the terrorists they claimed to see.
Chemjor said he saw two terrorists, one black and one brown with black headscarves on, while Ombati had testified that they encountered only one that they eventually killed as he hid among mattresses in the Nakumatt Supermarket.
Chemjor testified that he did not recall going anywhere near Nakumatt and that the terrorists he saw were not hiding among mattresses but waving.
“One civilian firearm holder known as Haji touched me and tell me (sic) can you see two men waving?” he testified.
Chemjor was also unable to verify Ombati’s claim that the, “pressure,” they put on the terrorists enabled two Nakumatt staff members to escape the terrorists who were holding them hostage and to inform the officers that there were no more than four terrorists in the mall.
Neither was able to verify Ombati’s testimony that the two escaped hostages were killed in the ensuing gun battle between the officers and terrorists.
“I never got anyone to tell me the number of terrorists,” he stated.