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One Year After Kenyan Mall Attack, Few Answers Have Emerged

Survivors and relatives of victims carry Kenya's national flags on the anniversary of last year's deadly attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya's capital of Nairobi.
Survivors and relatives of victims carry Kenya's national flags on the anniversary of last year's deadly attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya's capital of Nairobi.

Kenyans are marking the first anniversary of a deadly attack on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi that sparked a siege and created new uncertainty over the reach of extremist violence in Africa. The attackers were identified as Islamist militants from Somalia, but few other details about the incident have emerged.

While mourning the dozens of people killed in the attack one year ago, many Kenyans were also angered by what was seen as a slow and poorly planned response to the violence. Revelations that security forces had stolen merchandise from inside the mall fueled the outrage.

Today, candles were lit and flowers were placed at a site outside the Westgate Mall, the scene of last September's attacks.

From Nairobi, NPR's Gregory Warner reports on today's remembrances:

"Prayer circles convened in grocery stores, bank lobbies, and cemeteries. An official memorial was unveiled with a choir, while homemade shrines sprung up around the city. Survivors and poets recounted the horror of that Saturday afternoon when at least 67 people were gunned down by militants from Al Shabab.

"But on social media, Kenyans raised still-unanswered questions about what exactly happened that day: How the siege was carried out, and why it dragged on for four days, giving Kenyan army officers inside the mall, who were supposed to be hunting the terrorists, ample time to loot nearly every store.

"The looters were caught on video but no senior officer was sacked. A special probe promised by the president after the attack has yet failed to produce any report."

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Kenya's critical tourism industry is suffering.

"Worsening insecurity, compounded by an increase in crimes such as carjackings and break-ins, has damaged Kenya's tourist industry, the second-biggest source of foreign-currency earnings after tea exports," the site says. "Visitor arrivals fell 31 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to the Kenya Tourism Board."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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