The al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab has launched a lengthy massacre in an upscale Nairobi mall popular with Westerners, with a death toll of at least 59 people so far. The attack comes in reprisal for Kenya’s participation in suppressing the terrorist networks that operate in al-Shabaab’s home base of Somalia, and specifically targeted “non-Muslims.” It’s essentially a replay of Mumbai from five years ago, with the only question remaining is how many more will the terrorists kill before getting killed themselves or committing suicide. The terrorists told Muslims to clear out of the mall before attacking the rest:
The Kenyan military remained in a tense standoff with Islamic extremists Sunday, as the toll rose to 59 dead, including children, and 175 wounded in the attack at an upscale mall, a Kenyan minister said.
Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where hostages are being held by militants. The radicals attacked the mall Saturday and remained inside throughout the night.
Kenya’s Red Cross said in a statement citing police that 49 people had been reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could form the basis of the number of people held hostage.
“The priority is to save as many lives as possible,” Joseph Lenku said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the upscale Westgate mall. Kenyan forces have already rescued about 1,000 people, he said.
Ten to 15 attackers remain in the mall and Kenyan forces control the security cameras inside the shopping center, Lenku said. Combined military and police forces surrounded the mall in the Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi, which is frequented by foreigners and wealthy Kenyans. An Associated Press photographer saw Kenyan soldiers carry into the mall a rocket-propelled grenade, an extremely heavy weapon for an indoor hostage situation.
An explosion of an RPG inside a confined area would be extremely lethal, thanks to the rapid increase in air pressure. If the military has that weapon as an option, they may also think that the hostage situation will ultimately be futile.
This has been unfolding for hours, and the victims have been from China, France the UK, and Canada. A well-known Ghanian poet, Kofi Awoonor, is also among the dead. The US embassy says several Americans are among the wounded. The scene from the mall has been chaotic, but a number of people managed to escape:
CNN also explores the al-Shabaab connection to al-Qaeda:
The attack comes after a civil war within al-Shabaab that apparently resulted in the death of the American traitor Omar Hammami. Hammami reportedly wanted al-Shabaab to take a more aggressive posture on attacks against the West, while the AS leadership didn’t appreciate having its strategy questioned by an impertinent foreigner. Perhaps this is a compromise between the two sides, sort of a Hammami-lite operation without Hammami (assuming, of course, that Hammami is actually dead). Just as with Mumbai, this raises questions about soft targets in Western nations and whether those governments are prepared to deal with a cadre of bloodthirsty jihadis who don’t worry about exit strategies in operations like this.
Update: That’s not the only terror attack today targeting non-Muslims. Two suicide bombers attacked Christian churches in Pakistan today, killing 56:
A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old church in Pakistan after Sunday Mass, killing at least 56 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in the predominantly Muslim South Asian country.
Violence has been on the rise in Pakistan in past months, undermining Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to tame the insurgency after coming to power in June. …
The Taliban-linked militant group TTP Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack.
“They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them,” said the group’s spokesman, Ahmed Marwat. “We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”
Christians make up about four percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million and tend to keep a low profile in a country where Sunni Muslim militants frequently bomb targets they see as heretical, including Christians, Sufis and Shi’ites.
Update: Don’t forget that al-Shabaab has done a lot of recruiting in the Twin Cities among the ex-pat community here, and a number of young men remain missing. The FBI got quite a bit of cooperation from the Somalis here (no thanks to CAIR) as they tried to keep their sons out of the conflict that they had fled, and the probe has resulted in some indictments. Keep that in mind as we find out who the perpetrators were in this attack.
Update: This might get the US more deeply involved:
France said two of its citizens were killed, and Canada said two Canadians died, including a 29-year-old diplomat. Ghanaian diplomat and poet, Kofi Awoonor, was also killed, as was a Chinese woman, according to China’s official news agency.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who offered assistance to Kenya, said several U.S. citizens had been hurt and the wife of a U.S. diplomat working for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed.
Don’t be surprised to see a few of these nations band together for a punishing attack on al-Shabaab in the future. (via the Daily Beast)