Kenya attack shows that terrorism is a global problem

September 29, 2013 2:13 pm0 comments by:
 this Thursday, Feb.17, 2011 file photo, al-Shabab fighters march with their weapons during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. The al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group claimed a victory following the crash of an alleged U.S. reconaissance drone in the area. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor)

This Thursday, Feb.17, 2011 file photo, al-Shabab fighters march with their weapons during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. The al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group claimed a victory following the crash of an alleged U.S. reconaissance drone in the area. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor)

Horrific tales poured in from the Westgate Mall on Saturday, September 21, 2013, in a posh neighbourhood of Nairobi, as a well executed terrorist attack wreaked havoc on shoppers. More than 70 people were killed and many more were taken hostage in the assault, which lasted for three days. The culprits, the Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, claimed credit for the attack while unveiling a sinister play-by-play of the onslaught from the groups’ active Twitter feed. Now, a joint coalition of forensic experts from the U.S. and Kenya attempt to pick up the pieces in order to discover more facts about the perpetrators, who claimed that the violence was retaliation for Kenyan troops entering Southern Somalia in an effort to dislodge al-Shabab from power in Somalia.

The attack is certainly not the first by al-Shabab against innocent civilians. They are however, generally more notorious for their suicide bombings in and around al-Shabab held strongholds. The fact that this attack prolonged the coverage by taking hostages, singling out non-Muslims and occurred beyond the borders of Somalia shows the groups’ adaptability to orchestrate horror with a fairly long reach of influence. One similar al-Shabab attack took place in 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, when bombers attacked bars and restaurants during the World Cup Final. Now the brazen group has decided to raise the stakes against countries that prevent the group from maintaining a foothold in Somalia.

Maybe the most disturbing part of this attack, as more news is unveiled about the assailants, is the fact that the group of combatants responsible came from across the globe. New reports have surfaced that several Americans, as well as one British woman, possibly Samantha Lewthwaite or the “White Widow” as she is known, were among those that assaulted the Westgate Mall. The fact that there is speculation that the terrorists came from “all over the world” is indeed alarming, as it shows an advanced cooperation from multiple nationalities among global terrorist entities. Al-Shabab uses modern techniques such as Twitter and sophisticated videos to recruit soldiers from around the world. Since 2007, an influx of Somali-Americans has flooded Somalia to join the groups’ ranks. There is also speculation that the group has formed ties with fellow African Islamic insurgent groups Boko Haram out of Nigeria and Islamic Maghreb in Northern Malias part of an African terrorist coalition. In addition, more proof has surfaced that al-Shabab maintains close ties with al-Qaeda in Yemen, which helps the group obtain weapons and training to enhance their effectiveness for terror attacks. All of these militias want to create fundamentalist Islamic states, invoking Sharia Law, in the regions in which they operate. Sharing in a common goal may unite them, which is a scary prospect as attacks could originate anywhere.

That common cause is to eradicate any connections to groups or regimes that they deem as a threat to fundamentalist Islam. This includes much of East Africa especially Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, as well as Europe and the United States.

Couple these connections between groups with the total insecurity in Libya, allowing terror groups to steal massive amounts of weapons, and the reality is that terror groups are not only becoming more sophisticated, but they are finding ways to take advantage of destabilised areas to provide the tools to carry out attacks. A supply chain of weapons from al-Qaeda in Yemen and Libya allow groups such as al-Shabab to obtain more advanced weaponry for more effective attack strategies such as those used in Kenya.

While there has been a large investment in counterintelligence and counterinsurgency operations by the international community, the reality is that more joint efforts and more unified security operations are needed as groups like al-Shabab have become a global problem. While the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) continues to make progress on taking back rebel controlled regions in Somalia, the West needs to provide more support than logistical to sever the ranks of al-Shabab leaving the group too detached to organise. It seems that more and more the world is simply waiting for the next attack as factious terrorist groups materialise their next gambit to strike fear in civilians globally. A unified assault needs to eliminate the practice of reactionary forces by instituting initial strike strategies. With the multitude of various people within the ranks of the Westgate terror team, it is clear that all facets of terrorism, from recruitment, training and social media to actual plots executed, need to be addressed in order to ensure safety across the globe and prevent groups with similar terrorist motives from cooperating with one another. While it is clear that eliminating extremism altogether is not a reality, the fact that martial action from militias is evolving to become more destructive and well-planned is alarming. Only through global cooperation will these perpetrators be eliminated before they can execute their next animus. Whether this entails a world force strictly mandated to combat terrorism and terrorist plots or more in-depth communication on an international level between nations under threat, the attack at Westgate clearly shows that common practice is not working.

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