Finally, the siege laid on the Westgate Shopping Mall by a group of armed men (and woman), claiming to be members of the Somali militant Islamic group Al-Shabab, over the weekend, in which 67 people were killed, more than a hundred injured and a few others yet unaccounted for, has ended.
While the siege lasted, it kept the whole world riveted, even taking the shine off the United Nations General Council that commenced on Monday.
Not only did Kenya stand still, with many glued to any form of news media to monitor the events, the whole world of discerning public couldn’t just get down to normal business.
There’s no gainsaying the fact that those who were in the thick of the action, especially kids will be scarred for life by what they’ve seen.
Al-Shabab claimed they initiated the attack to warn Kenyan authorities to steer clear of Somalia, in what is reminiscent of attacks in Europe some years ago that led to the withdrawal of several European troops (who had gone to assist the United States, in the Coalition Of The Willing, against the so called ‘Axis Of Evil’) from war ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan.
This isn’t the first time that terrorism will visit Kenya, but this is the most daring and brazen of all, appearing for all intent and purposes to be well planned and implemented.
The Al-Shabab used to be a part of the ISLAMIC COURT group that once held sway in large swathes of Somalia during the heady days after Said Barre was ousted as president. They overran several warlords (who ran clans) and instituted a strict version of the SHARIA, that outlawed several activities Somalians were used to as way of life, including listening or dancing to music, cinemas and football viewing centres, amongst others apart from the criminal codes, with punishments ranging from a few whips, to amputations, to summary executions of perceived offenders, most times based on uncorroborated stories, especially in cases of adultery against woman, for which many paid the supreme price.
The Al-Shabab group split from this group taking with them the most radical, and in recent times aligning with worldwide Jihadists, Al-Qaeda. Infact, one of the first acts the armed men (and woman) once they established their presence at the shopping mall, in asking that Muslims leave the surrounding as they’ve come to attack non-muslims, is indicative of a deference for the recent message by Al-Qaeda’s Number One, Al-Zawahiri who instructed Jihadists to desist from attacking fellow muslims, which appeared to have been immediately adhered to in the twin suicide bombings at a church in Peshawar, Pakistan leading to the loss of more than 75 Christians as they left the church premises, and of course the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya (though the sectarian bloodletting in Iraq between and among Muslim groups seem not to be letting up despite Al-Zawahiri’s admonition).
One unique thing about the Al-Shabab group is the ease with which it has been able to draw Somalians in the diaspora, especially the young ones from prosperous western countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, where they’d been living quite peaceful, well laid out lives to (come back home) it’s fold, many without prior notice to their parents.
The group has also drawn citizens of western countries who’d become radicalized in the West (like in Britain) to it’s fold. In fact,a few days before the Westgate Mall attacks, two western born Jihadists who had recently split from Al-Shabab, known by their nicknames ‘Al-Britani’ and ‘Al-Amriki’ were assassinated, in what seemed to be a reminder to western Jihadists by the locals as to who calls the shots.
Interestingly, preliminary investigations show that the female member (purportedly, leader) of the group that attacked Westgate was British and may be the widow of one of the terrorists that partook in the attacks on London’s subway system some years back, to scare the British into withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan and Iraq. Also three Americans were said to be part of the group of likely 10 Jihadists.
This particular attack played out like that in the Mumbai attacks on a hotel by Pakistani militants sometime ago (of which the lone militant survivor was hanged earlier this year).
The activities of Al-Shabab was greatly negatively impacted by the activities of African Union, AU forces deployed mainly by neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. In recent times, they have lost large areas they formerly controlled, with normalcy nearly restored in Mogadishu where a government propped by the AU and UN tries to assert itself.
Unfortunately, these countries have borne the brunt of the anger of Al-Shabab, with the bombing of a TV-viewing centre in Uganda’s capital during the last World Cup, leading to the loss of lives of some of the viewers and injury to many others.
Kenyans have been dealt a big blow by this act, and unlike the embassy bombings of the ’90’s where the message was to Americans, this one is directed at Kenyans for Kenyans, targeting the mainstay of their economy with the aim of instigating the people to question their army’s involvement in Somalia, like we saw in Europe years back.
Gladly, the government has proclaimed it’s resolve to remain engaged in and with Somalia in a bid to restoring peace there eventually.
Africa has in recent times being the battle ground of Militant Islamist elements seeking to enforce their strict form of Islamic Law in the areas where they hold sway in countries such as Nigeria (where just yesterday the Abubakar Shekau that the military claim had died suddenly ‘resurrected’ in a video calling their bluff, while insisting that his group, Boko Haram will not rest until Nigeria is run according to the tenets of the sharia), Mali (where the AnSardeen were recently driven out by a combination of French and African soldiers), to the Al-Shabab of Somalia. Not forgetting the event playing out in Egypt.
Unfortunately, most of the funding for these terrorist groups come from simple neighbourhood mosques where mainly moderate muslims freely give of their earnings to charity.
I’ve watched on cable TV, clerics on Islamic channels overtly and covertly canvas for support in cash and kind, for unnamed groups seeking to entrench Islamic rule and societies in places like Somalia, even right there in the UK in the full glare of media regulating authorities, not in Arabic, but in simple day-to-day English!
It is situations like these that makes me not totally loathe intelligence gathering activities of governmental agencies like the National Security Agencies, NSA even when they appear to be infringing on the rights of the many.
I would like to use this medium to praise the Kenyan security forces. I salute the courage of their dead and wounded. May The Almighty grant families of victims, the fortitude to bear this great loss.
For the survivors and Kenyans in general, this is the time to unite against terror and not to begin casting aspersions on peace loving muslims or the Somali community in your midst.
This brand of terrorism like all others before it shall pass!