Al-Shabaab leader confirms Kenyan mall attack

Ahmed Godane says they attacked the mall because of Kenya's intrusion into Somalia to crush the insurgents.

A screen-grab from a CNN video taking a look at the al-Shabaab militant group claiming responsibility for the deadly attack at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Picture: CNN

MOGADISHU - The leader of the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab has for the first time confirmed claims by members of his group that it was behind the attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed at least 72 people and destroyed part of the complex.

In an audio posted on the al-Shabaab-linked website on Wednesday night, Ahmed Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr, said the attack on the mall was in retaliation for Kenya's incursion in October 2011 into southern Somalia to crush the insurgents.

"Take your troops out or prepare for a long-lasting war, blood, destruction and evacuation," Godane said in the message, apparently directed at the Kenyan government.

Meanwhile, the Hawks have confirmed that South African authorities have been monitoring al-Shabaab's activities in the country for over a year.

It's since emerged the al-Qaeda linked group has used South Africa to plan attacks.

A series of unconfirmed tweets from al-Shabaab earlier this week suggested that Pretoria would have been the next rendezvous point for the group.

The validity of the Twitter account has not yet been established.

Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko says while he can confirm that authorities have been investigating al-Shabaab's activity in South Africa, the investigation has no links to the terror attack in Nairobi.

"We can confirm that there is an investigation which we are busy with. However, we cannot confirm that it relates to the latest incident in Kenya, but indeed we are working on something to do with al-Shabaab."

In a televised address on Tuesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared final victory over the al-Shabaab gunmen.

He also said the attackers would pay for their actions.

"I promise that we shall have a 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 and patrons wherever they are."

The death toll now stands at 67, but officials say as many as 63 people are still missing.

Five terrorists were also shot dead during the siege.