Kenyan military accused of turning Westgate mall siege into shopping spree

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Yesterday's lockdown in Washington, DC reminded everyone about some truly essential government personnel. I'm talking about the Capital police officers and Secret Service agents who responded to the emergency. They were and still are on the job as essential, but unpaid until the shutdown is over. Contrast that dedication to the reports we're hearing from Nairobi, Kenya. There are accusations that the Kenyan military forces who responded to last week's shopping mall terrorist attack deliberately prolonged the crisis to allow themselves time to loot items like designer suits, watches, and electronics from the mall shops. Larry Madowo is a journalist with NTV Kenya in Nairobi. He joins us from the NTV newsroom now. Larry, this is shocking. What is the evidence behind the accusations? Larry Madowo: That is what we are trying to sift through as a nation, but also as a military, because there is some grainy security footage that appears to show some of the soldiers looting. The largest body of evidence, if I can call it that, is pictures and video from shop owners who went back there in the last few days, and they found their safes broken into, they found jewelry stolen. In some cases, even restaurants found their alcoholic drinks completely empty. Werman: Even the perception, though, of officials allowing violence to unfold while they profit from the mayhem has got to be earth-shaking for Kenyans. What's been the public reaction to these reports? Madowo: A lot of disgust really. People cannot imagine that people who are supposed to be in the disciplined forces of the military could have done this at a time when a lot of people were worried about their loved one, their family and friends, who could still have been stuck inside the Westgate Mall. So there's been a wide amount of public condemnation in the media and social media, even from official sources. The military continuing to say that we do not think this happened and if anybody's got evidence, please bring it forward. Werman: Was there any official response from the Kenyan military about these charges? Madowo: Not officially, not on camera. They haven't done any on-camera interviews or, for that matter, recorded interviews. But one of Kenya's senior spokespeople for the military has indicated on his Twitter page that there is no such thing that happened. In fact, this evening the military has released a video showcasing the gunmen inside the Westgate, and perhaps trying to show that they did a good job. They have sent statements denying that their men looted there. The public of course do not believe this, because they are the only ones who were in there, the place was under lockdown, so who could have done it? Werman: Kenya is consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. How does that play out in everyday life? DO you experience this? Madowo: There's corruption in many aspects of Kenyan life, especially in the public service and trying to get some government services. But you don't expect this to happen in the military and the military has sort of enjoyed almost this bubble where they have a public trust and that's why it has been so surprising for everybody. You might expect corruption or to be asked for a bribe when you are getting a passport or getting a national identification, but not within the military. Werman: Is anyone in Kenya wondering if Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based extremists who took responsibility for this mall attack, whether they'll see these reports and just see Kenya as really porous right now? Madowo: And they're already gloating about it. Some unofficial Twitter accounts associated or affiliated with the Al-Shabaab have already been gloating about this and talking about how undisciplined the Kenyan forces are. They don't have the integrity to leave the crime scene untampered with so how could they possibly been able to contain the Al-Shabaab. Werman: So Larry, what next? How's the government going to move ahead in response to the claims, these really shocking claims, that their military was looting during this horrific attack? Madowo: The government is going through a crisis of confidence right now in its response to the Westgate attack, and even when it did respond, like sending in the military within the Kenyan boundary, and then this happened, so there's going to be a lot of explaining to be done from the official sources, how this could have been allowed, if it in fact did happen, and how to avoid these. So they will have a lot of tough work to convince the public they can be trusted. Werman: Larry Madowo, a journalist and news anchor with NTV Kenya in Nairobi, speaking with us from their newsroom. Thanks so much, Larry. Madowo: My pleasure.