NAIROBI - Kenya is "at war" with Islamist militants who attacked a Nairobi shopping mall, the government said on Saturday as it faced questions about whether it had received advance intelligence warnings of the deadly strike.
A week after the raid on the Westgate shopping center that killed 67 civilians and police and was claimed by the Somali militant group al Shabaab, the government has been trying to reassure Kenyans that it can protect them from further attacks.
Three Kenyan newspapers reported on Saturday that a year ago the country's National Intelligence Service (NIS) had warned of the presence of suspected al Shabaab militants in Nairobi and that they were planning to carry out "suicide attacks" on the Westgate mall and on a church in the city.
In front-page stories, the Nation, Standard and Star newspapers questioned whether the Kenyan government and military may have failed to act on this and more recent warnings this year by local and foreign intelligence services.
"It is not a 'yes' or 'no' answer," Mutea Iringo, principal secretary in the Ministry of Interior, told Reuters.
"Every day, we get intelligence and action is taken as per that intelligence and many attacks averted. But the fact that you get the intelligence does not mean something cannot happen," the senior official added.
"What we are saying is that we are at war, and that every day some young Kenyan is being radicalized by al Shabaab to kill Kenyans," Iringo said, calling on citizens across the east African nation to be alert and cooperate with authorities.