Q&A: Westgate attack aftermath

A Kenya General Service Unit policeman stands guard in the area around Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, 25 September, 2013. There are reports that Kenya's police and army may have fired at each other during the confusion

At least 67 people are known to have died after suspected al-Shabab militants stormed the Westgate shopping centre in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on 21 September. Almost a month later, many questions remain unanswered, amid something of an information vacuum.

What is happening now in Westgate?

After weeks of searching, the first three bodies have been recovered from the rubble of the shopping centre.

Two are thought to be attackers, while the third is likely to be of a soldier, officials say.

An international team of experts is still digging through the ruins of the shopping centre, collecting DNA, fingerprints and ballistic samples for analysis.

Kenyan officials say 61 civilians and six members of the security forces died during the four-day siege, along with an unknown number of attackers.

The Red Cross says that 23 civilians remain unaccounted for but government officials say they only expect to find the bodies of the attackers and the security forces.

It remains unclear if some of the militants escaped or if they all died when the siege was ended.

Who was behind the attack?

Map

Somalia's al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabab Islamists say they were behind the attack in retaliation for Kenya's decision to deploy troops to the Horn of Africa country.

There have been conflicting reports about how many people were involved - and where they came from.

Officials initially said there were 10-15 people involved but CCTV footage only shows four men.

Kenyan officials have released the noms de guerre of the four, saying they are all Africans .

But a BBC Newsnight investigation says one of the men was a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin.

The government says the question of who was involved will be answered by forensic investigators.

There has also been speculation in the press that British terror suspect Samantha Lewthwaite could have been involved in planning the attack - officials say she did not help carry it out.

It is known that jihadists from various nationalities have gone to fight alongside al-Shabab fighters.

BBC Africa security correspondent Moses Rono says it is unlikely that foreign attackers would carry out an assault in the region without the support of al-Shabab.

Even after suffering major defeats at home in Somalia, the militants remain a regional threat, offering a gateway to spreading militancy.

How long was it planned?

Until the forensic results are released, it is impossible to speculate on the level of planning which went into the attack.

The BBC has been told that the militants hired a shop in the mall in advance of the attack.

This gave them access to service lifts at Westgate enabling them to stockpile weapons and ammunition, which they used to rearm quickly and repel the security forces.

Why did it take so long to end the siege?

This question is being widely discussed in the Kenyan media.

The local Daily Nation quotes the head of one of the police units as saying that they were escorting shoppers to safety when they were fired at by a group of soldiers who mistook them for militants.

It was in the ensuing confusion that the attackers regrouped, enabling them to hold out for a further three days.

But obviously it was a difficult situation for the security agencies to handle.

The operation was led by Kenyan special forces trained in anti-terrorism and hostage situations. But it did not help that despite their training, this was the first hostage experience for this elite group.

They were keen to minimise casualties and there was a fear of suicide bombers and explosives.

Shooting from inside the building continued up until the siege ended. It is unclear if the shooting was from the security forces or the attackers.

There have been some suggestions that the security forces deliberately took longer to end the siege than needed, to give themselves time to loot the shops.

CCTV footage has emerged which appears to show soldiers helping themselves to goods inside the shopping centre. The military says it is investigating.

Unnamed security sources have suggested that the siege ended when security forces blew up part of the shopping centre, which then collapsed onto the attackers.

It is not known if they were holding any hostages at the time.

Graphic: Final phase

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