A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabaab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.
Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based jihadist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.
The pair, wearing Islamic prayer caps and face masks, asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.
Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi sentenced the pair to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists but ordered both terms be served together.
Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing jihadist propaganda material on his laptop.
He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account the seven years they have already spent behind bars.
“Despite mitigation by their defence lawyers on their innocence, the offence committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.
The convicted men were in regular contact with the gunmen who at midday on 21 September 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.
Although there was no specific evidence the convicted pair had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amounted to supporting the armed rampage and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.
The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.
The attack was claimed by al-Shabaab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the Islamist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.