NAIROBI — Almost a month after gunmen attacked an upscale mall in Kenya, one of them has been identified as a Norwegian Somali, officials said Friday, as charred body parts taken from a collapsed portion of the shopping center awaited forensics analysis to determine whether they were the remains of the assailants.
The suspect was identified as Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, the first time officials have confirmed having a real name of one of possibly four attackers from the Islamist militant group al-Shabab who stormed the mall Sept. 21. Norwegian tax records show a Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow was born in 1990 and was registered at an address in Larvik, southern Norway, as recently as 2009.
A former classmate of Dhuhulow’s at Thor Heyerdahl High School — named after the Norwegian adventurer — said she was shocked when she found out he was a suspect in the Nairobi attack.
“The video I saw looks a lot like him. But it’s difficult to see,” said the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“He was a quiet guy,” she added. “He was very committed to his religion but not extreme. He brought a prayer mat to school.”
Larvik is a coastal town of about 40,000, tucked in between the woods and the sea, surrounded by agricultural land and close to the mountains.
Community leader Mohamed Hassan said that Dhuhulow, as a boy, would listen to his elders in the mosque and be respectful.
“He was not a troublemaker here in Larvik,” Hassan said by phone.
Newly released video from closed-circuit security cameras at the Westgate Mall show four armed men shooting defenseless civilians. At one point, a gunman shoots a man who was trying to hide behind an elephant statue. The man survives and, bleeding profusely onto the floor, squirms. Another gunmen comes back and finishes him off.
In other scenes, terrified shoppers and employees scramble for safety as bullets flash overhead.
Charred pieces of bodies, enough to fill two plastic boxes about a foot wide and across, have been recovered from the part of the mall that collapsed as security forces battled the terrorists, officials said Friday. Four AK-47 rifles thought to have been used by the attackers were also recovered.
A Kenyan security official said that it is possible the remains are of the attackers but that it would not be definitively known until tests are carried out.