Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based terrorist group that attacked a shopping mall in Kenya, said on Wednesday that foreigners were a “legitimate target”.
Speaking to the Associated Press (AP), members of the group confirmed that gunmen separated Muslims from others and let the Muslims go.
In an email exchange with the news agency, the Al-Qaesa affiliate said the jihadis “carried out a meticulous vetting process” so the Muslims would not be harmed.
At least 18 foreigners were killed, including six Britons, citizens from France, Canada, Trinidad, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China, when the terrorists entered the Westgate Mall on Saturday, slaughtering men, women and children with assault rifles and grenades.
Witnesses said the gunmen also rounded up people, asked questions about Islam that a Muslim would know, and told the Muslims to leave.
On Tuesday night, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the bloody siege at the Westgate shopping mall was finally over.
Kenyatta said in a televised address that five terrorists from Al Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-linked Somali group were shot dead by troops with a further 11 suspects taken in custody.
Earlier this week, a member of Al-Shabaab told Arab satellite network Al Jazeera that the attack was overdue, and that the mall was chosen for the attack because “it is a place where there are Jewish and American shops.”
The Islamist group attacked the mall – a place where innocent civilians shop – because “it is a place where tourists from across the world come to shop, where diplomats gather. It is a place where Kenya’s decision-makers go to relax and enjoy themselves,” said the spokesperson.
As the group demands the imposition of Islamic law in Kenya and the removal of all Western influences – and tourists – Al Shabaab felt justified in attacking the site, the terrorist spokesperson said.