Terror at Kenyan mall

From the November-December 2013 issue of News & Letters:

World in View

Terror at Kenyan mall

In a horrific attack on the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Somalia-based Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab killed at least 68 men, women and children. The group claimed this atrocity was a reprisal for Kenyan troops being in Somalia.

In fact, this brutal, inhuman attack was an effort by al-Shabaab to assert its continuing relevance in light of major defeats by UN-backed African Union troops in Somalia. The group has also been weakened by internal splits and defections.

These internal tensions were highlighted by the recent assassination of a dissident American member, Omar Hammami, a prominent organizer, financier and propagandist who recently broke with al-Shabaab’s leaders.

Kenya is home to some of the world’s largest refugee camps, housing hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees. The logic behind al-Shabaab’s attack on Kenyan civilians is to increase tension and generate prejudice against these refugees and Kenya’s own Muslim population. It is a strategy of desperation.

—E.W., G.E.

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