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Multi-faith service held for Kenya mall attack victims

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Leaders of several faiths led a prayer service for victims of the Nairobi mall siege while business owners say security forces looted their shops.

Tuesday's service in Nairobi was led by Kenya's top Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders who asked that the participants pray for peace, the BBC said.

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Meanwhile, business owners at the upscale Westgate Mall said they suspect security forces looted their stores while pursuing the militants, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Attending the prayer service were President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto -- both on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, for their alleged roles in post-election violence in 2007 -- and opposition leader Rail Odinga, the BBC reported.

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Officials say 67 people died after al-Shabaab militants stormed the mall on Sept. 21.

The prayers were sponsored by Kenya's Inter-Religious Council, with religious leaders calling for national unity, reconciliation and healing.

Bishop Gerry Kibarabara asked the congregation to stand and shake hands while saying "peace."

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Adan Wachu, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims, said, "Islam is not terrorism and terrorism is not Islam. Islam is peace."

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On Monday, Kenyan lawmakers urged that camps for Somali refugees in Kenya be closed in the wake of the siege.

Al-Shabaab, a Somali Islamist group, said the attack was in retaliation for Kenya's military involvement in Somalia.

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After touring the mall wreckage Monday, Dalmas Otieno, an opposition member of Parliament, said, "All the shops were smashed."

He said Parliament would investigate the shop owner's allegations of looting by security forces, the Journal said.

Atul Shah, managing director of Nakumatt, said his two-floor store collapsed during the siege, causing what he said was millions of dollars in damages. He also said there was looting by security forces.

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"Looting was clearly visible," Shah said. "When you looked into the mobile shop and the computer shop, there was nothing there."

David Kimaiyo, Kenya's police inspector general, responded, "Allegations are allegations. Any form of theft must be formally reported to the police."

The military, which also participated in the rescue operation, didn't respond to requests to comment, the Journal said.

The lack of information about the investigation also has drawn complaints, the Journal said.

Kenyan officials have said the attack ended when five militants were killed when several of the mall's floors collapsed. They also said they have nine suspects in custody. However, officials haven't revealed information about the alleged attackers' identities.

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While authorities said the militants may have detonated explosives that caused part of the mall to collapse, it wasn't clear if the Kenyan army's rocket-propelled grenades contributed to the collapse, the Journal said.

"People are asking a lot of questions," said Vinod Shamji, a Nairobi property manager who said several of his friends were killed in the attack. "They cannot bungle this; if they do, frustration will just fester."

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