Suspect’s family denies terror link

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UPDATED: A family member of a Somalian-Norwegian man, allegedly spotted in surveillance photos of the recent terrorist attack at a shopping center in Nairobi, denied to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) late Thursday night that it’s him. A BBC documentary aired earlier in the evening, however, cited a former neighbour who identified him, and Norwegian police now say their suspicions have been strengthened.

The 23-year-old man who came to Norway when he was nine is now suspected of playing a major role in the attack on the Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi, where at least 69 persons were killed. A video from a surveillance camera at the center shows a man carrying a weapon and firing shots, and the BBC interviewed a former neighbour of the man in Norway who claimed to recognize him.

TV2 in Norway had already reported on Monday that they had video allegedly showing the 23-year-old, and that he called several persons in Norway during the attack. On Friday, local newspaper Østlandsposten reported that former classmates of the young man claimed to recognize him as well. “It has to be him” one told the paper. “He had a special way of walking, and you can see he walks differently from the others.”

PST investigating
Investigators from Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, PST) traveled last week to Nairobi after being asked for assistance by Kenyan authorities. PST confirmed that a Somalian-Norwegian was among the suspects, and would be trying to establish whether he has ties to the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab that has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The BBC cited sources in Kenya who singled out the Somalian-Norwegian and the BBC identified him in its documentary. NRK and TV2 refused to do so, in line with Norwegian press practice of rarely if ever identifying crime suspects until they’ve been convicted.

The suspect’s female family member, who also wasn’t identified, told NRK that she had been shown the same surveillance photos under questioning by PST. She denied that the man in the photos is the 23-year-old Norwegian-Somalian, and said it was “unthinkable” that he would be involved in the deadly attack.

“None of the men in the video is the 23-year-old,” she told NRK. PST didn’t initially respond to requests for comment but issued a press release Friday afternoon saying their suspicions “had been strengthened.” The wouldn’t say why, but said the were concentrating their part of the investigation in Kenya on him.

Radical concerns
It’s not clear were the 23-year-old is at present or whether he’s alive. NRK reported that he came to Norway at the age of nine and graduated from videregående skole (the equivalent of high school and the first year of college in Norway) and already then landed on PST’s radar because of concerns he was becoming a radical Islamist.

He traveled to Somalia after graduation but returned to Norway a few months later and worked at the courier and security firm Nokas. He remains officially registered with an address in Østlandet (southeastern Norway), but he left the country again and his family member told NRK she misses him.

The BBC also reported that two of the shopping center terrorists allegedly have ties to Norway. One was reportedly directly involved in the attack, while the other had a less clear role. He is a 28-year-old man who is not a Norwegian citizen but who was granted residence permission in Norway in 2008. He nonetheless left Norway shortly thereafter, according to NRK’s sources in PST.

There also have been allegations that a Somalian-Norwegian, believed to be the 28-year-old, was involved in the planning of the attack and narrowly avoided capture by US special forces.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund