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Kenya: Westgate Terror Suspects’ Sentencing Postponed

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A court in Kenya has postponed the sentencing of two convicted persons found to have participated in the attack of Westgate Mall in 2013, to allow the probation officer complete and file the victims’ report.

The sentencing of Ahmed Abdil and Hassan Mustafa, had been scheduled for Thursday after the trial court found them guilty earlier this month.

The prosecution through Edwin Okello, told the court Thursday that only nine victims had recorded their statement and that the probation officer required seven days to complete the recording of the remaining statements.

The application to adjourn the sentencing was not opposed by the defense lawyers, Chacha Mwita and Mbugua Muerithi.

- Retaliation -

The Westgate Mall attack was claimed by Al-Shabaab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the Islamist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabaab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students, and many shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabaab warned in a January statement that Kenya "will never be safe" as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabaab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.

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