Westgate siege: Trial of accused starts in Kenya

Suspects in court in Nairobi, Kenya (4 Nov 2013) The men are accused of giving shelter to the Westgate attackers

The trial of four men charged over the Westgate shopping centre siege in Kenya has started in the capital, Nairobi.

The four suspected foreigners deny charges of aiding a "terrorist group" and being in Kenya illegally.

The court heard testimony from security guards who saw what happened when the gunmen launched the attack in September, killing at least 67 people.

Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group said one of its suicide brigades carried out the siege.

The four are the first to be charged over the attack - the worst in Kenya since 224 people were killed in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy.

'Black headscarves'

None of the men - named as Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah, Adnan Ibrahim and Hussein Hassan - are accused of being the gunmen who carried out the attack.

A woman who had been hiding during the gun battle runs for cover after armed police enter the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya -21 September 2013 The siege began at about midday on a Saturday when the mall was busy with shoppers

Their nationalities have not been disclosed, but they are said to be ethnic Somalis.

Guard Stephen Juma told the court he was directing traffic outside the upmarket shopping centre when a car pulled up and three men jumped out.

One of them immediately shot dead a shopper, he said, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Mr Juma said he could not identify any of the gunmen because their heads and faces were covered with black headscarves.

"I began to hear gunshots, I made a radio call for help while running to the main entrance," he is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

"I took shelter in a residential compound until when I saw policemen come."

False ID charges

The police say the four accused had sheltered the attackers in their homes in Eastleigh - a Somali neighbourhood in Nairobi - and that they were in contact with the gunmen four days before the siege.

The men have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include entering Kenya illegally and obtaining false identification documents.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Nairobi says 40 witnesses are expected to give evidence in the trial, which is likely to last around a week.

A month on from the attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, the BBC's Will Ross examines what we know about what happened

The Kenyan army has said that all four of the attackers died during the siege.

One of the suspected attackers has been named as 23-year-old Somalia-born Norwegian national, Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow.

Al-Shabab is fighting for an Islamic state in Somalia.

It said it carried out the attack to avenge the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia to bolster the UN-back central government.

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