Africa

Al-Shabaab’s resurgence in Kenya

September 23, 2013   ·   2 Comments

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Al-Shabaab’s armed assault on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi resulted in the deaths of 68 shoppers and scores more have been wounded, while an unknown number has reportedly been taken hostage. 

The Somali Jihadist group al-Shabaab, which translates as “the youth” in Arabic, has claimed responsibility for the Sunday armed assault on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. This marks the group’s explosive resurgence onto the global terrorist platform as a incredibly relevant and stolid affliction to the East African region.

The organization, which is linked to Al-Qaeda, has in recent weeks garnered attention for the execution of one of their former leaders and notorious terrorist, Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki (aka Omar Hammami) of  Daphne, Alabama. Since the development this year of a more internationally recognized Somali government, struggling to restore and maintain order the group has seen  significant push-backs from some of the localized warlords, who have lent their hand to the nascent government. Sending troops to its northerly neighbor, Kenya was also an African nation that assisted in establishing some order in Somalia. This has resulted in al-Shabaab becoming both more bold in their tactics and more bitter out of necessity to maintain their own hold.

The armed assault on the mall began when the militant gunman stormed the facilities lobbing grenades while firing AK-47s  into the innocent civilian crowds. The initial death toll has been reported at 59 dead and estimates as high as 300 people wounded. Among the dead are several foreigners including a Canadian diplomat, two French Nationals, and a wife of a US diplomat. The wounded included victims aged from 2 to 78 years old. Additionally, it has been reported that among the victims were close relatives of Kenyatta. The gunmen have allegedly taken an additional 30 people as hostages. There have been exchanges of gunfire between al-Shabaab and the security forces since the the militants first entered the mall.

While the security forces attempting to rescue the hostages hoped for negotiations, Al-Shabaab taunted the security forces, claiming that they would not be willing to negotiate via their Twitter account. Among the group’s Tweets was: “10 hours have passed and the Mujahideen are still strong inside #Westgate Mall and still holding their ground. All praise Allah!” The security forces have been able to rescue a many of the 30 hostages initially taken. Many reports confirm that only a small number of hostages remain under the control of the militants.

The attack bears a striking resemblance to some of the armed assualts perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba (another AQ affiliate responsible for the deadly Mumbai Attacks), in its targeting of soft targets.

Contrary to claims by some international organizations and governments, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates are not dwindling in their strength and resolve. In many instances there seems to be signs that the group has successfully implanted its radical ideologies  and actions into a variety of regions and conflicts. The group’s reappearance in Nairobi should be well cautioned by the international community, as it not only shows the dynamism of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, but also the potential for new geographical hotspots. Nations like the US should no longer ignore such issues when it comes to safeguarding diplomats and installations in such hostile regions, as they have recently done in the past year, such as in Benghazi, Libya. This is particularly important given the precedent set back in 1998 under the Clinton Administration.

Photo credit: kevinzim via flickr

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Massimo Pernice

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  1. […] of the Youth”) is a Somalia-based organization with connections to al-Qaeda. On September 21, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility over Twitter for the Westgate Centre shootings in Nairobi, Kenya, claiming that its militants shot […]

  2. […] of the Youth”) is a Somalia-based organization with connections to al-Qaeda. On September 21, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility over Twitter for the Westgate Centre shootings in Nairobi, Kenya, claiming that its militants shot […]