, NAIROBI, Aug 5 – Witnesses in the trial of four men accused of helping the gunmen behind Kenya’s Westgate mall massacre said Tuesday their identities had been falsely used to secure telephones used in planning the attack.
The slow moving trial in Nairobi – which opened in January – has heard evidence from people who were at the mall when the gunmen from Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab launched their attack in September 2013, killing at least 67 people.
The suspects — Hussein Hassan Mustafa, Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah Omar and Adan Mohammed Abdikadir — are not accused of carrying out the attack, but of providing support to the terrorists.
All four appeared in court Tuesday, handcuffed together but apparently in good health, smiling and chatting to each other in Somali, according to an AFP reporter in court.
They are charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack, being members of a terrorist group and possession of material linked to the terrorism offence.
A police officer and a female musician told the court their national identification cards had been used to falsely register mobile telephone numbers.
“I’m shocked, and I wonder how that could have happened,” said Rose Mukere, a gospel singer.
The gunmen, who police have said numbered just four, were seen on security camera footage talking on the telephone as they moved through the upmarket mall, shooting shoppers and hurling grenades.
During the four-day siege the Shabaab boasted of being in constant contact with the gunmen, providing running updates via Twitter.
More than 35 witnesses have so far appeared at the trial, with at least 15 more expected to give evidence, prosecuting lawyers said.
Somalia’s Shabaab, who said the gunmen came from a special suicide commando brigade, said the attack was a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia, where they are fighting the extremists as part of an African Union force.
Like the attackers, the four on trial are all ethnic Somalis, but it is unclear whether they are Somali or Kenyan citizens.
The next hearing is scheduled for August 20.