Somali terrorist group al-Shabab has said that no women were involved in the attack on a Kenyan mall that left at least six Britons dead.
It finally came to an end yesterday with five militants killed and 11 others in custody, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta announced in a televised address.
Kenya’s foreign minister Amina Mohamed had said that a British woman who had been allegedly involved in terrorism “many times before” was one of the militants who laid siege to the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi.
The woman was said to have acted alongside “two or three” Americans, but al-Shabab, which has links to al Qaida, said only men were involved.
in a statement to the Associated Press news agency, al-Shabab dismissed suggestions that a woman had been involved in the attack.
“We have an adequate number of young men who fully committed and ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Allah and for the sake of their religion, so there is no need for us to employ our sisters in the battlefield and thereby expose them to unnecessary risk,” it said.
Mr Kenyatta said forensic teams were working to establish the identities of the terrorists and confirmed intelligence reports had been received suggesting that a British woman and a number of American nationals had been involved.
He said in his address: “As I had promised earlier, we have ashamed and defeated our attackers. That part of our task has been completed by our multi-agency security team.
“I promise that we shall have full accountability for the mindless destruction, deaths, pain, loss and suffering we have all undergone as a national family. These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices, wherever they are.”
But while he said “the worst” of the crisis was now over, it was unclear whether Kenyan security forces had accounted for all the militants.
Lewthwaite, dubbed the “White Widow”, is known to be in East Africa and is wanted by Kenyan police over alleged links to a terrorist cell that planned to bomb the country’s coast.
In March last year officials said she had fled to Somalia and that officers were hunting a woman who used several identities, including hers.
It is feared the death count could rise as Kenya prepares to start three days of national mourning today.
Kenyatta said at least 61 civilians are known to have died, along with six members of security forces. Approximately 175 people have been injured, with 62 remaining in hospital.
It has been confirmed that six Britons have been killed, but Defence Secretary Philip Hammond warned the death toll could be even higher. “It is possible we will discover further British nationals once the building is fully secure,” he said.
Troops have remained deployed at the vast shopping complex. Bodies are feared to be trapped under rubble in the mall, where three floors have collapsed.
Horror stories have emerged following the carnage at the upmarket mall, popular with foreigners and well-off Kenyans.
Louis Bawa, the father of eight-year-old Jennah, told of the “heart stopping” moment he learned his British daughter and Kenyan-born wife Zahira had died at the hands of “animals” who used “religion as an excuse to kill people”.
Mr Bawa, chief executive of a marketing company, told the Daily Telegraph: “The last time I spoke to them was on Friday evening, I didn’t get a chance to catch up with them on Saturday morning. They were going to Westgate to do what they always did, grocery shopping. This time they didn’t come home.
“I think our last conversation was about just normal things, school fees, something like that, I can’t remember. I don’t know exactly what happened but it looks to me that they were gunned down ... they were just shot.”
He added: “At first I was convinced that they would be OK. I had hope. Then on Sunday night there was a team that went in to bring out some bodies and they took photographs of other bodies.
“We all had to look at these pictures - something I would never want anyone to have to do - and identify them. That was how I knew. My heart just stopped, that was the last news in the world I wanted to hear. It’s like nothing else, I can’t fathom it, even now.”
Mr Bawa said he spoke to his daughter last week and promised to buy her a present if she did well in her exams. He recalled how she had asked for a pony and encouraged him to start saving because she planned to work hard.
Also thought to be among the British victims was Ross Langdon, 33, an architect with dual British and Australian nationality who was shot with his pregnant girlfriend Elif Yavuz, a Dutchwoman educated at Harvard.
The crisis began on Saturday when 10 to 15 al-Shabab extremists stormed the mall, throwing grenades and firing on terrified shoppers.
The terrorists roamed through the complex reportedly seeking to separate Muslims - who were allowed to leave - from non-Muslims, who were killed or taken hostage.
Scotland Yard has said a team of officers has travelled to Nairobi to help with “post incident procedures” including gathering scientific evidence, as well as supporting the work of British coroners.
A Foreign Office spokesman has said the UK is doing everything possible to support Kenya in bringing those responsible for the “vicious attack” to justice.
A Briton has been detained in the Kenyan capital, the Foreign Office said today.
A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm the detention of a British national in Nairobi. We are making contact to offer standard consular assistance.”
The Foreign Office could not say if the detention was being linked to the shopping mall shootings, or details of when and where the person was held.
However it has been reported that the Briton was a 35-year-old man, believed to be of Somalian origin, who was detained at Jomo Kenyatta airport on Monday afternoon.
The Mail Online said he attracted the attention of passport officers as he prepared to board a Turkish Airlines flight because he was acting suspiciously, was wearing dark glasses and had bruising to his face.