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Suspect in Kenya mall attack said to be a Somali-born Norwegian

October 18, 2013|By Robyn Dixon and Alexandra Sandels
  • Friends and relatives of a Somali-born Norwegian say he bears some resemblance to a gunman seen in closed-circuit television footage of a deadly attack on a Kenyan shopping mall last month. Norwegian investigators have not confirmed his involvement.
Friends and relatives of a Somali-born Norwegian say he bears some resemblance… (AFP/Getty Images )

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Kenyan and Norwegian authorities are investigating the possible involvement of a 23-year-old Somali-born Norwegian in a devastating attack last month on a shopping mall in Kenya, officials said Friday.

The Somali terror group Shabab claimed responsibility for the assault, which killed at least 61 civilians, six members of Kenya's security forces and five attackers, according to official figures.

The BBC identified the suspect as Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, who arrived in Norway in 1999. He and his family entered the country as refugees and settled in the town of Larvik. A decade later, he returned to Somalia, a relative of the young man told the BBC.

Kenyan officials told the Associated Press Friday that Dhuhulow was believed to be one of the attackers. But Norwegian authorities would not confirm or deny the report. 

Martin Bernsen of the Norwegian police intelligence service PST told the Los Angeles Times that investigators had been looking into reports of the involvement of a Norwegian citizen for about a week.

"The latest news is that the suspicions have strengthened," he said in a telephone interview. "It´s different kinds of information that strengthened suspicions of his involvement in the attack."

Norwegian investigators had not yet established whether the suspect was alive or dead, he said.

Dhuhulow was reportedly a well-known member of the Shabab who took part in many of the group's attacks in Somalia, according to the BBC.

Norway's TV-2 published a photograph of Dhuhulow alongside an image of one of the attackers taken from a mall security camera, suggesting a resemblance. The station also published images of Dhuhulow sitting smiling on a beach with a group of Norwegian classmates.

Kenya's head of criminal intelligence, Ndegwa Muhoro, told a parliamentary committee Thursday that phone calls made from the mall during the attack had been traced. Some of the calls were to Somalia,  others to Norway.

Also Thursday, Kenyan forensic investigators recovered additional human remains from the shopping mall. The remains will undergo forensic testing to try to establish their identities but are believed to belong to attackers.

There were conflicting reports about the number of bodies involved. Two boxes full of charred body parts were taken to a morgue, according to AP. They were found with four AK-47 rifles, the news service reported. Other agencies reported that two bodies had been found. Kenyan media reported that the remains included a human head.

The bodies are believed to be those of the attackers because the Kenyan military doesn't carry AK-47s, Ndung'u Gethenji, head of the parliamentary committee investigating the attack, told the BBC.

There were also reports that the body of a soldier had been recovered.

Kenyan officials are holding three suspects believed to have been involved in the attack, according to Kenya's Standard newspaper. Eight other suspects are being sought, the paper reported.

Questions remain about much of the information supplied by Kenyan authorities during the four-day siege that began Sept. 21.

Kenyan officials initially said that 10 to 15 attackers were involved, yet CCTV footage has shown only four, suggesting that many of them managed to escape or that fewer were involved than believed.

Kenyan officials also initially claimed that several Westerners, including a British woman, were involved, but none was seen in the footage.


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Twitter: @latimesdixon

Staff writer Dixon reported from Johannesburg and special correspondent Sandels reported from Stockholm

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