By Tom Hays
NEW YORK — A team of heavily armed New York Police Department officers conducted a late-night drill at a closed shopping mall last month in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the chaos that accompanied the mall massacre earlier this year in Kenya, police officials said Tuesday.
The after-hours NYPD exercise at Kings Plaza in Brooklyn was intended to test officers' ability to thwart rampaging gunmen in a crowded public setting, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters following a briefing for corporate security officials at police headquarters.
With Kelly nearing the end of his tenure as the head of the nation's largest police department, he once again warned that the city should never let its guard down on the terror front. The NYPD claims that more than a dozen terror plots involving the city have been uncovered since the Sept. 11 attacks.
"This is a time for vigilance and not complacency," he said. "The world we are in remains a very dangerous place."
The grenades-and-gunfire assault on the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi on Sept. 21 killed at least 67 people. The Somali militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for Kenya's sending of troops into Somalia.
The mall siege was carried out by four men with AK-47 assault rifles, but the standoff turned into a four-day fiasco that saw the mall go up in flames and a section of the structure collapse. Afterward it was revealed that Kenyan army troops looted high-end merchandise inside the mall.
An analysis of the attack by the NYPD's counterterrorism unit found that the response by Kenyan authorities was plagued by delays and poor coordination. The police officers who initially responded to the attack lacked basic equipment like bulletproof vests, radios and handguns, the analysis says.
Security video recovered after the Nairobi attack indicated that the shooters were not "interested in taking any hostages," the NYPD report says. "They only appeared interested in killing a broad spectrum of people."
The evidence also suggested the gunmen's mission "was to conduct a high-profile attack by inflicting as many casualties as possible in a short period of time and then possibly escape during the ensuing confusion," the report adds.
Some of the security camera footage shows the four gunmen holed up in a super market storeroom, where they are seen treating one's gunshot wounds, eating and praying, the analysis says. At some point, one of the men can be seen heading in the direction of a loading dock and never reappearing, it adds.
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press