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'NIS GAVE ADVANCE WESTGATE WARNING'

Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY DAVID MWERE AND DOMINIC WABALA
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku  flanked by Defence CS Rachael Omamo,Foreign affairs CS Amina Mohammed,IG David Kimaiyo,NIS director Micheal Gichangi and  State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu   the updates the  press  on the update on  the progress of operations at the Westgate Shopping Mall.. Photo/PSCU
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku flanked by Defence CS Rachael Omamo,Foreign affairs CS Amina Mohammed,IG David Kimaiyo,NIS director Micheal Gichangi and State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu the updates the press on the update on the progress of operations at the Westgate Shopping Mall.. Photo/PSCU
NIS Director General Michael Gichangi at Westgate during a press Conference yesterday. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
NIS Director General Michael Gichangi at Westgate during a press Conference yesterday. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

THE National Intelligence Service gave advance warning of the Westgate attack, according to some security officers.

Gen Michael Gichangi, NIS Director General, is due to meet MPs of the Defense and Foreign Relations committee this morning.

Gichangi apparently would prefer to testify in public but Defense committee chairman Ndungu Gethenji (Tetu) has indicated that the meeting will be closed to the media.

Two NIS officers who did not want their identities revealed yesterday told the Star that their organisation had given advance warning of the attack to Inspector General of Police Service David Kimaiyo and Criminal Investigations Department director Ndegwa Muhoro.

They sensationally claimed that Kimaiyo and Muhoro should be investigated for failing to act on intelligence briefs given to them.

They also claimed that some senior officers within the Office of the President should be investigated for “suppressing” intelligence reports.

They said NIS was not to blame for the Westgate attack that has claimed over 100 lives.

It has also emerged that a policewoman has recorded a statement after her brother who works for the NIS warned her not to visit Westgate on Saturday because of an impending attack. The NIS officer is being sought for interrogation.

The pregnant policewoman regularly went window shopping in Westgate on Saturdays.

"She has told police that her brother who is a NIS officer warned her not to visit Westgate that Saturday because she would not be able to run with her bulging tummy," a senior officer involved in the investigation said yesterday.

The policewoman was picked up from her home on Tuesday night and taken to CID headquarters on Kiambu road where she was interrogated for four hours before being allowed to go home.

The NIS officers told the Star yesterday that NIS Director General Michael Gichangi was willing to testify in the open in today’s meeting with the Defense committee of the National Assembly.

“I can assure you that the director general is willing to restore the image of the intelligence service because of the negative publicity it has received due to the Westgate attack and the many previous security lapses in the country,” said one NIS officer.

“We understand that the director general will be appearing before the committee tomorrow (Thursday) and it is his desire that the meeting is open to the media so that the public can get to know who failed in the line of duty. He wants to clean our name and set the record straight,” the officer said.

The two officers said the NIS had also warned the police about the danger before the Baragoi massacre but the police ignored the intelligence reports.

However Defense committee chairman Ndungu Gethenji (Tetu) has insisted that the meeting will be closed to the public and the media.

“No, it is not open due to the ongoing security operations,” said Gethenji in a short text reply.

However Kimini MP Chris Wamalwa, a member of the Defense committee, said that the meeting should be open because there was nothing to hide.

Members can vote to overturn the chairman’s unilateral decision, Wamalwa told the Star on Wednesday before he left the country for official duty.

“It is wrong for the chairman to imply that his unilateral decision may be taken to mean the collective resolution of the members. We will be proposing to discuss the conduct of the chairman and these are some of the issues,” said Wamalwa.

Typically, the committee’s meetings are held behind closed doors except for the vetting of principal secretaries.

Last week the committee met Defense Cabinet Secretary Raychalle Omamo in private to hear a report on Kenya’s border security with Somalia.

Yesterday MPs questioned the competence of the NIS and called for its total overhaul and commended the police for their rescue work at Westgate. They argued that the huge allocations to the NIS were not commensurate with its output.

“The country must get to the root cause of the matter. It was a horrendous act that calls for the dismantling of the gang. It can only be defeated by an efficient intelligence system in place,” said Asman Kamama, chairman of the House committee on Administration and National Security during an adjournment motion on the Westgate attack.

Meanwhile Israeli, German and American investigators are assisting their Kenyan counterparts in a forensic audit of Westgate on the fifth day after the attacks.

"We strongly believe that there is an insignificant number of bodies still remaining in the building. We are conducting forensic investigations which is an elaborate process that includes fingerprinting bodies, DNA process and ballistic examination. We expect the process to take not less than seven days," Internal Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said yesterday. He was accompanied by Chief of Defence Forces General Julius Karangi and his deputy Lt Gen. Samson Mwathethe, Director of CID Muhoro Ndegwa, NIS boss Gen Michael Gichangi and Cabinet secretaries Amina Mohammed and Raychalle Omamo.

The stench of rotting flesh from the collapsed building occasionally reached the nearby Oshwal Centre as the forensic team started going through Westgate looking for booby traps, bodies and explosives.

Five military armoured personnel carriers and six military trucks sped out of Westgate at 11am yesterday indicated that the siege had finally come to an end.