Zee Media Bureau
Nairobi: In an attack that underpinned the presence of al Shabaab group outside its land, the Somalia’s extremist group targeted the Westgate shopping centre in Kenya’s capital on Saturday. As many as 16 armed assailants entered the upscale mall in Nairobi, lobbing grenades, firing automatic weapons, and holding some hostages. The message is clear: al Shabaab is not weakening.
The ongoing attack by al Shabaab, which grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a longtime dictator in 1991, also echoes an atrocious internal strife within the group which highlights its hardline global jihadist wing.
The carnage seems to be a statement made by al Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu al Zubayr (aka Ahmed Abdi Godane), who consolidated his power in June in an internal coup. Notably, he oversaw the killing of four top commanders, including two of the group`s co-founders.
Godane, according to CNN, attended a madrassa in Pakistan when he was young. In 2012, he vowed his group`s allegiance to al Qaeda, making al Shabaab a part of al Qaeda`s global jihad.
As the attack unfolded, al Shabaab on Twitter said: "For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it`s time to
shift the battleground and take the war to their land".
This is not the first time al Shabaab has launched such an attack. In 2010, al Shabaab bombers had caused such carnage when they attacked bars and restaurants in Kampala, Uganda`s capital, on the night of the World Cup Final, killing over 60 people. The attacks were to avenge Uganda`s role in the African Union force backing Somalia`s weak government in Mogadishu. This time too, the reason is same.
The attack came as no surprise as al Shabaab, which means `The Youth` in Arabic, had in the past threatened to avenge ever since the United Nations-sanctioned AU offensive drove the group out of Mogadishu in 2011 and its coastal stronghold of Kismayo in 2012.
The audacious attack is meant to punish Kenyans for their military`s intervention in Somalia in recent years.
The attack could also be an attempt by al Shabaab to signal its continued relevance.
Al Shabab was originally the militant wing of Islamic Courts Union. In 2006, when Ethiopia invaded Somalia, al Shabab gained prominence. It thrived in the lawlessness that followed Ethiopia`s pullout in 2009.