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Kenya Forces Faced Well-Prepared Attackers in Mall With Many Hiding Places

While the Kenyan authorities have announced the end of the siege at a Nairobi mall, troops there still face work of clearing and searching the area. Judy Woodruff talks to Nicholas Kulish of The New York Times, who explains the slow resolution is due to caution by security forces against a highly organized and well-armed foe.

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    A smart time ago, I spoke to reporter Nicholas Kulish in Nairobi. He's been covering the story for The New York Times.

    Nicholas Kulish, welcome to the program.

    So tell us where things stand right now. Is this operation completely over or isn't it?

  • NICHOLAS KULISH, The New York Times:

    Well, you know, they have said that it's over, and yet on my way here I was told — I hit a roadblock and a soldier — I was told that for my own protection I had to go the long way around.

    They're still — they're still clearing. They're still searching. This is an enormous mall with more than 80 stores in it and probably an almost unlimited number of hiding places.


    How do you explain the fact that President Kenyatta has now said several times that they were finished, but then it turns out that they haven't? What has made this so difficult?


    Well, I mean, I think it's been particularly difficult because the assailants inside the mall were extremely well-armed.

    There was the fear that if they went in too hard, they would kill potential hostages and so, I mean, I think that mix of caution and extreme preparedness on the part of the militants made it very, very difficult for the Kenyans to operate.


    How much is known right now, Nicholas Kulish, about the militants behind this, about how well-organized they were, who they were?


    It's clear that they were extremely well-organized. There's no question about that. And also there's no question that Al-Shabab, the Somali militant group, has taken responsibility for it.

    From there, it gets a little more complicated. al-Shabab has allied itself with al-Qaida, and there are other groups that it could have been working in combination with. It has been suggested that Americans might have been involved, British people might have been involved, people from the Arab world. So there's a great uncertainty in terms of exactly the people were who staged this attack.


    And, finally, tell us about what people in Nairobi are saying. Is there still a great sense of fear? How are people sensing all this? How are they handling it?


    Well, I think there definitely is fear. People talk about not wanting to hang around in the food courts of malls or where people might strike next.

    I mean, there's real apprehension that comes from this attack. On the other hand, I think that if the goal that the militants had was to scare Kenya and to drive it out of the parts of Somalia where it has troops stationed, in that, they have really failed quite spectacularly.

    There's an incredible feeling of solidarity here, of binding together and a sense, I would say, of a lot of people wanting to fight even more.


    Nicholas Kulish in Nairobi for The New York Times, thank you.


    Thanks for having me.