Nairobi - Kenyan troops accused of ransacking Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall during last month's massacre by Islamist gunmen took goods only "to ensure their safety", the army chief said on Tuesday.
Shop owners - including a top end jewellery store as well as others selling mobile telephones, watches, cameras, expensive suits and lingerie - said their stores were completely looted.
But speaking in front of parliamentary committee investigating the four-day siege in which at least 67 people died, army chief Julius Karangi insisted officers did not loot, and took drinks from the supermarket only "to quench their thirst".
Explaining the other goods taken, Karangi called it "sanitisation to ensure their safety".
Several business owners told AFP that they locked their premises before escaping from the mall only to find them ransacked and with valuables missing when they were allowed back in after the siege.
Security camera footage from the mall released over the weekend shows soldiers carrying white plastic bags out of the supermarket, shortly after the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab gunmen carried out a shooting spree, executing children in the shopping aisles.
Footage from the second day of the siege when only the army had access to the mall, shows individual uniformed soldiers putting their guns down in order to have both hands free to ransack shops.