NAIROBI, Kenya — Almost one 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 if 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 Somali militant group al-Shabab who stormed the mall on 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 late 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 former classmate, who didn’t want her name to be used because she was uncomfortable being associated with a terror investigation.
“He was a quiet guy,” she said. “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 trouble maker here in Larvik,” Hassan told The Associated Press by phone.
But newly released video from closed-circuit TV security cameras installed at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi show four armed men, cold-bloodedly 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, some scuttling like crabs, as bullets flash overhead.
One man living in a Scandinavian country, but not Norway, told AP he believes he had met the Norwegian-Somali gunman at a gathering of Somali immigrants in Oslo, Norway’s capital, in 2008.
Yussuf, who only gave his first name for fear of reprisals, recalled the man’s name as Abdi and said he was associated with “pretty radical” circles in Norway.
“He was mad. He didn’t feel at home in Norway,” Yussuf saids. Yussuf said he had not had any contact with the man since then but added that several people he knew thought they had recognized him in the closed-circuit TV footage of the mall attack.
“We said that it could be him when we looked at the video,” Yussuf said.