The Norwegian intelligence agency PST today announced the launch of an investigation into reports that a Norwegian was involved in the Shabaab massacre at the Westgate Mall in Kenya. The suspect is a Norwegian of Somali origin, and may be an acquaintance of the al Qaeda affiliate’s external operations chief, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, also known as Ikrima.
According to the BBC, the PST has dispatched investigators to Kenya to determine the extent of the Norwegian suspect’s involvement and to help prevent new terror threats. The inquiry also aims to see if the suspect is linked to Shabaab. PST section leader Jan Glent also said he could not rule out “more Norway-linked suspects,” Reuters reported.
The PST statement did not identify the suspect by name, but said he was a Norwegian citizen who had allegedly been involved in the planning and execution of the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall last month. Over 62 people were killed in the four-day siege, which has been claimed by Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia.
Norwegian press reports indicate that Shabaab external operations chief Ikrima spent time in Norway several years ago. He arrived in 2004 and applied for asylum there. Norway’s TV2 said he had stayed “at a reception center in Moelv in Hedmark from 2004” and for several years after that.
Hamisi Zahidi, a fellow asylum seeker who knew Ikrima at the time, told the Norwegian news outlet that Ikrima disliked Norwegians and Norwegian culture, and was known to be involved in terrorist recruitment in Norway and elsewhere. While in Norway, Ikrima lived in the Oslo area but also visited Somalia, TV2 said. Ikrima departed Norway in 2008 without having received a decision on his asylum application.
The US failed to capture Ikrima in a raid in Somalia on Oct. 5, but reportedly two Shabaab operatives during the raid, including a “Swedish Somali” said to be Abdi Qadar. The Department of Defense said that Ikrima is “a top commander in the terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate,” who had been “closely associated” with two deceased senior al Qaeda and Shabaab leaders, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh al Saleh Nabhan.
Also on Oct. 5, Kenya named four of the Westgate Mall attackers: Abu Baara al-Sudani, a Sudanese; Omar Nabhan, a Kenyan; Khattab al-Kene, thought to be a Somali; and Umayr, whose surname and nationality were not disclosed. Shabaab has been known to use non-Somalis for attacks in the past, including American suicide bombers.
The subject of the investigation is a Somali Norwegian who holds a Norwegian passport, according to an NRK report, and is not Ikrima.