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Kenyan Foreign Minister Says ‘Two or Three’ Americans Involved in Mall Attack

September 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed tells PBS NewsHour chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner that "two or three" Americans and a female British citizen participated in the militant attack on the Nairobi shopping mall.

GWEN IFILL: We return now to the mall attack in Kenya.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner, who is in New York this week covering the United Nations General Assembly, caught up with Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed.

Like many others in government there, she knew some of the victims.

MARGARET WARNER: Minister Mohamed, thank you for joining us. And my condolences for what has happened in your country.

AMINA MOHAMED, Kenyan Foreign Minister: Thank you. Thank you very much.

MARGARET WARNER: And I understand your daughter also lost two of her very good friends there.

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AMINA MOHAMED:  That is correct. That is correct. But we all lost somebody there.

This is a huge tragedy.

MARGARET WARNER: Huge, and still ongoing.

AMINA MOHAMED:  That’s correct.

MARGARET WARNER: What can you tell us about the perpetrators? It looked like a very professional job.

AMINA MOHAMED:  Yes, absolutely.

I think if you saw how it was carried out, it was professional. It was very well-coordinated. And it clearer I think to the government now that al-Shabab has been working with others in other parts of the world to just increase the outreach, their capacity, to expand the operations and to be able to reach places that they had not reached before.

MARGARET WARNER: And are you talking about with other al-Qaida affiliates and wannabes all over the world?


AMINA MOHAMED:  Absolutely. Absolutely. They’re all over.

MARGARET WARNER: Was your government surprised that they had this kind of reach to get into Nairobi, pull off something of this scale without being detected?


AMINA MOHAMED:  I think we’re all shocked. I think we’re all shocked.

And what does it tell us? It tells us that, as governments, we must do better. If they can cooperate at that level, if they coordinate their evil at that level, that governments around the world must cooperate even more, that we must be able to share our intelligence, we must be able to share our resources, we must be able to combine our efforts and to collaborate even more closely, to just make sure that we stay ahead of the curve.

This is a totally new way of doing business for them. And I think we have just seen how much damage can be done. We shouldn’t let them don’t away with this.

MARGARET WARNER: Al-Shabab made it clear this was in retaliation for what the Kenyan forces have been doing very effectively against al-Shabab along the Kenya-Somalia border inside Somalia and with — as part of the African Union operation inside Somalia.

Is there any thought on your government’s part in pulling back from that?

AMINA MOHAMED:  No, absolutely not.

I think we’re more strengthened in our resolve to do our best to uproot al-Shabab everywhere and anywhere we find them. We went into not because we liked going into Somalia. We went in because we needed to protect our security and economic interests. Al-Shabab had come into our country. They had taken tourists hostage, killed some of them.

And it was at that moment that we decided enough was enough and we were not going to allow that.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you think — Kenya is hosting a large number of Somalia refugees in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya. Do you think that has left Kenya more vulnerable?

AMINA MOHAMED:  Yes, I think it has. I think it has, because it has been very, very difficult to differentiate between the genuine refugees and some of these elements that have been hiding among the refugees. So, yes, absolutely, I think it’s been something that we have been looking at for a while. The refugees…

MARGARET WARNER: Any thought of being less welcoming to them?


I think that, look, we have taken on international commitments to open our doors whenever anybody faces fear of persecution. I don’t think that this is going to be one of those occasions where we turn around and say, look, we just shut down. We will not do that.

MARGARET WARNER: How closely are the Kenyan and U.S. governments working on intelligence and law enforcement side of all of this?

AMINA MOHAMED:  We are working together. We are working together.

I think now everybody needs to up their game. I think this attack shows this, that we do not do enough. We need to work much more closely with everybody, but much more with the U.S., I think, and the U.K. government, because, as you know, both the victims and the perpetrators came from Kenya, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  

MARGARET WARNER: So, both Britain and American citizens were among the perpetrators?


From the information that we have, two or three Americans, and I think so far I have heard of one Brit.

MARGARET WARNER: And the Brit was a British foreign woman?

AMINA MOHAMED:  Woman. Woman. And she has, I think, done this many times before.

MARGARET WARNER: And the Americans?

AMINA MOHAMED:  The Americans, from the information we have, are young men, about between maybe 18 and 19.

MARGARET WARNER: Of Somali origin?

AMINA MOHAMED:  Of Somali origin or Arab origin, but that lived in the U.S., in Minnesota and one other place. So, basically, look, that just was to underline, I think, the global nature of this war that we’re fighting.

MARGARET WARNER: What can these countries of Africa that have now seen outbursts from various al-Qaida affiliates do to keep this part of Africa from becoming the new hub of the al-Qaida affiliates around the world?

AMINA MOHAMED:  It is a challenge.

And it will require responses at all levels, and especially at the global level, but also at the regional level, at the sub-regional level, at the local levels. These people who perpetrate these crimes didn’t fall from outer space. They live among us. They live in our countries. Right? We know them.

And I think it’s time that we actually looked each other in the eye and said, listen, I think this neighbor of mine, yes, he must be planning something. I think we just need to be much more aware, much more prepared to deal with this, right, and we must always remain ahead of them.

MARGARET WARNER: Madam Minister, thank you very much.

AMINA MOHAMED:  Thank you.