Terror Strikes Westgate Mall

Fifteen Somali-Islamist terrorists stormed the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday, September 21. The militant al-Shabaab fighters threw grenades and fired shots, quickly destroying parts of the mall and taking numerous hostages. Throughout the course of the three-day stand-off between Kenyan officials and the Al-Qaeda linked group, 67 people were brutally mutilated and killed, and roughly 175 people were injured. Around 70 people are still missing in the mall wreckage.

Though several survivors were able to escape to safety on Monday following the attack, multiple victims were not so lucky. Children and adults alike were found dead with their eyes gouged, noses torn apart with pliers, castrated, or stuffed into refrigerators. The terrorists also burned the bodies of their deceased fellow members in order to protect their identities. USA Today likened the bloodbath to that of a horror movie. Those who survived were forced to hide or pretend to be dead for days in order to be rescued.

The al-Shabaab took to social media. They repeatedly threatened hostages through Twitter and warned authorities of the repercussions if they decided to use force against them. Spokesman for the al-Shabaab, Sheikh Ali Mohammud Rage, communicated through an online audio recording. “The mujahideen will kill hostages if the enemies use force,” he stated.

The terrorist group supposedly targeted non-Muslims during their rampage. Both Kenyans and foreigners from various other countries were victimized. A former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, states, “This is undoubtedly anti-Western and anti-Christian, but it also taps into a lot of deep popular anger against the political economy in which they find themselves, in which a small group of people are basically raking off the wealth.”

The U.S. government is currently viewing the attack on Nairobi as a direct threat to domestic security, sending F.B.I. agents to investigate the remaining wreckage. Robert F. Gordec, American ambassador to Kenya, states, “The more we know about the planning that went into this, the way it was conducted, what was used, the people involved, the better we can protect America too.” The main concern is that parts of the Shabaab may be connected to America, and therefore the United States could be a potential target. Another police speculation is that British terrorist Samantha Lewthwaite, also known as the “White Widow,” is involved in the attack in some capacity.

Senior analyst of the Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute says, “One of the misconceptions is that we let Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups stay abroad and not fight them there, and that we would be safe at home…that’s really proven not to be the case.” Until the U.S. government finds out more about the terrorist group, they will continue to look into the situation in Kenya and remain on high alert for further information.

Sources:  Chicago Tribune, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, USA Today

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