NAIROBI — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Tuesday the country will remain militarily engaged in Somalia following the assault on a Nairobi shopping mall by Somali militants.
As investigators continued piecing information together on the Westgate shopping mall siege that killed more than 60 people, Kenyatta addressed an inter-faith prayer service in the capital, joining the country’s political and religious leadership to pray for unity and strength in the aftermath of the September 21 attack.
Those responsible for the attack, he said, have failed in their efforts to divide the nation.
“The agents of evil perpetrated terrorism in the name of religion. They hoped to destroy our society and divide its people along religious lines, but we fought back as one people and continue to nurse our grievous wound together.”
Somalia-based militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the siege, calling it retaliation for Kenya’s ongoing military operations in southern Somalia. Kenyan forces entered the country in 2011 in response to a spate of cross-border attacks and kidnappings blamed on al-Shabab.
Kenyatta said Kenyan forces would remain in Somalia until the job is done.
“We will stay there until they bring order in their nation," he said. "We will not be intimidated, we will not be cowed.”
The president also announced that a commission of inquiry will evaluate lapses in the government's response to the Westgate attack.
Kenya’s security agencies have been under fire for a lack of coordination during the first few days of the siege, and mall shop owners accuse police and armed forces of looting during security operations.
While parts of the mall were destroyed by fires and the collapse of several floors during the siege, investigators are continuing to sift through debris.
The government says five assailants died during the fight, but the bodies have not yet been recovered.