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Canadians join global team in Nairobi to sort through aftermath of Westgate siege

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph ole Lenku, flanked other government officials, speaks during a news conference near the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi on Sept. 25, 2013.

SIEGFRIED MODOLA/REUTERS

A Kenyan cabinet minister says Canadian forensic investigators are part of an international team combing through the rubble of the devastated Westgate mall, but the Canadian government will only say it has "officials" on the ground providing unspecified assistance in the aftermath of the weekend terror attack.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said forensic experts and investigators from Britain, the United States, Israel, Germany, Canada and Interpol had joined the probe and were helping search the mall for bodies and evidence. Questions remain about both the final death toll and the nationalities of the attackers, including whether a Canadian is among them.

Mr. Lenku said the international experts are also trying to reconstruct the scene at the mall. After a four-day siege, the mall partially collapsed this week when Kenyan soldiers fired rocket-propelled grenades inside.

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Both the RCMP and Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs declined to say, however, how many Canadian investigators had been sent to Nairobi, what their goal is and whether they are specifically searching for the remains of Canadians.

"Canadian officials are in Kenya to provide assistance. We do not comment on operational matters," Foreign Affairs spokesman John Babcock said in a statement Wednesday.

A tweet during the siege from an account allegedly linked to al-Shabab suggested Canadians were among the attackers, but the Twitter account was later discredited. The Kenyan government has said the attackers were a "multinational" group. The Mounties issued a three-sentence statement Wednesday, suggesting police may be gathering evidence to determine if Canadians played a role in the attack.

"We are aware there are reports that a Canadian may have been involved in a terror attack in Nairobi. Canadian law enforcement and security agencies co-operate with agencies around the world on National Security issues. There are investigative processes that police must follow in gathering evidence to determine any potential involvement by Canadians in terrorist activities outside of Canada," the RCMP statement said.

The attack killed at least 67 people, including 61 civilians and six security officers.

With a report from Associated Press

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Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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Geoffrey York is The Globe and Mail's Africa correspondent.He has been a foreign correspondent for the newspaper since 1994, including seven years as the Moscow Bureau Chief and seven years as the Beijing Bureau Chief.He is a veteran war correspondent who has covered war zones since 1992 in places such as Somalia, Sudan, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. More

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