The facts surrounding certain crime stories have led many people to believe that South Africa is a haven for criminals and in particular, terrorists. Criminals either choose to come to South Africa to commit their crimes or they come to the country to hide out after committing crimes in other countries. The recent shooting at the Kenyan Mall seems set to follow this trend.
A South African newspaper published a passport image of one of the alleged shooters at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi this past weekend. Samantha Lewthwaite is said to be instrumental in the activities of the al-Shabaab militant Islamist group which is affiliated to al Qaeda. She is also known as White Widow since her suicide bomber husband detonated a bomb which left him and more than 50 others dead in London eight years ago.
The passport image depicts Lewthwaite’s face but the name on the passport is Natalie Faye Webb. The Department of Home Affairs warned people against jumping to conclusions. The spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department, Ronnie Mamoepa said: “You can’t for certain say just from a picture in a newspaper that this is a valid South African passport.” The department wants to determine the validity of the passport before taking further action. Mamoepa confirmed that the department will work closely with the Kenyan authorities in its investigation.
On Tuesday, The Independent reported that the Kenyan police had announced that the horror at the mall had been decisively dealt with. The police were going through the building with a fine comb to ensure that none of the attackers were still hiding out in the shopping centre. A member of the Kenyan security forces who was inside the mall during the attacks said that some of the attackers started blowing themselves up when they realised that they were barricaded and had nowhere to go.
As the gun battle ensued inside the building, police outside the mall had to launch tear gas to disperse the crowd. The onlookers were dangerously close to the scene of the shooting and for their own safety, they had to be distanced.
President Jacob Zuma spoke against the incident. He is attending the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly which will continue until 26 September in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said: “What has happened in Kenya indicates the extent that terrorism could go… It’s absolutely important we take a very firm decision.”
The death toll has not been confirmed as there are some people still missing but it is speculated that at least 62 people have died in this devastating attack.