Norway’s domestic intelligence service tried to prevent one of the suspected gunmen in the Nairobi mall attack from joining Somali terrorists more than three years ago, but failed to talk him out of it, the agency’s chief said in an interview Wednesday.
The man has been identified in Kenya as Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, a 23-year-old Somalia native whose family moved to Norway in 1999. Norwegian authorities have still not named him, and had previously not said whether they knew of him before the four-day siege of the Westgate mall that killed nearly 70 people in the Kenyan capital.
But Marie Benedicte Bjoernland, the head of Norwegian security service PST, told The Associated Press that the Norwegian suspect was well known to her agency and that it even tried to dissuade him from becoming a jihadist.
“We had several talks with him … before he left Norway more than three years ago,” Bjoernland said at PST’s headquarters in Oslo. “Obviously we didn’t succeed, but there was quite an effort put into the preventive side of this.”
Bjoernland declined to give details of the conversations, and said the Norwegian “most likely” died in the attack, though PST investigators haven’t confirmed that.
“We do preventive work. We talk to them. We try to persuade them not to go, because it’s a dangerous journey,” Bjoernland said. “I wish we were more successful. We have succeeded in turning some around from traveling. But quite a few have actually left.”
She called on other parts of society, including parents, child protective services, police and Muslim leaders to intervene when young Muslims are at risk of becoming radicalized.