Terrorists strike in Nairobi mall
Herb Boyd | 9/26/2013, 2:10 p.m.
A world caught in a tsunami of violence witnessed another terrible tragedy on Sept. 21 in Nairobi, Kenya, when gunmen, allegedly members of al-Shabab, a group tied to al-Qaeda, stormed through a shopping mall, tossing grenades and firing indiscriminately. As we go to press, it is reported that 68 people have been killed and more than 175 wounded.
While Kenya’s police and army have rescued most of the hostages grabbed by the attackers, there remain pockets of resistance in the mall where gunfire has been exchanged, and reports say that some of the hostages had improvised explosive devices strapped to them.
Leaders of al-Shabab, who emanate from Somalia, have taken responsibility for the attack, claiming it was done in retaliation for Kenya’s invasion of Somalia.
As the gunmen entered the Westgate Mall, a spacious upscale mall in the heart of the city, they shouted in Swahili to shoppers, commanding Muslims to take cover or flee the scene while others were targeted and shot down.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the press that some of his relatives were among the casualties. “We have overcome terrorists’ attacks before,” he asserted, “and we will defeat them again.”
Before it was shut down, a tweet from an al-Shabab-associated Twitter account announced, “There will be no negotiations whatsoever at #Westgate.”
Al-Shabab, or “the Youth” in Arabic, originated in Somalia and for many years were in control of large sections of a country that is practically devoid of any functioning government. But recently, due to the strong presence of troops under the jurisdiction of the African Union, their domination in certain regions of Somalia has been substantially reduced.
Curiously, there have been reports of volunteers from America and Britain in its ranks, and a video is now making the rounds on the Internet depicting an American among a group of al-Shabab trainees.
The attack on the mall is among several soft targets of al-Shabab over the last decade or so and is very similar to the attack in Mumbai in 2008 by Pakistani-based militants.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama called Kenyatta and expressed his condolences to the government and to the people of Kenya, where his father was born. He reiterated U.S. support for Kenya’s efforts “to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice,” he said in a statement.
Obama also “reaffirmed the strong and historic partnership between the United States and Kenya, as well as our shared commitment to combating terrorism and promoting peace and prosperity in East Africa and around the world.”
In the summer of 1998, suicide bombers in trucks packed with explosives parked outside of U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi. The explosives were detonated almost simultaneously. Approximately 212 people were killed in Nairobi with an estimated 4,000 wounded; and 11 people were killed in Dar es Salaam with an estimated 85 wounded.