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September 27, 2013

Official says Kenyan forces caused mall collapse

NAIROBI —

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's military caused the massive collapse of three floors of Nairobi's Westgate Mall during the terrorist siege in which at least 67 people died, a top-ranking government official told The Associated Press.

When asked Friday if military action against the hostage-takers caused the collapse, the official answered: "Yes."

The official also confirmed that Kenyan troops fired rocket-propelled grenades inside the mall, but would not say what was used to cause the collapse. The official insisted on anonymity because he was sharing sensitive intelligence information that has not been publicly released.

The top official's confirmation backs up information given to AP by another official on Wednesday, who said soldiers were responsible for the collapse which created a gaping hole in the mall's roof. That official said fired RPGs caused the collapse.

Four huge explosions rocked the mall Monday followed by dark smoke pouring from the shopping center, the likely time that the floors collapsed. The government has not publicly explained what caused the floors to collapse. One official earlier suggested it was caused by a mattress fire inside the Nakumatt department store.

It is believed the collapse of the floors helped to bring an end to the four-day siege at the mall, but it may have killed hostages still inside.

The official who spoke on Friday said autopsies on bodies under the rubble will show if those people were killed by the building collapse or had been slain earlier by the terrorists. The official said bodies are expected to be found after excavation of the roof collapse begins.

Investigators have recovered a vehicle believed to have been used by the terrorists who led the attack at the mall, a top Kenyan government official said Friday.

They are also building the profile of a man who warned a pregnant woman at the mall to flee for her own safety moments before Saturday's attack, he said.

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