Monday, September 23, 2013

23-Sep-13: The fog of Nairobi

The scene at the site of the terror attack now [Image Source]
Notwithstanding the live round-the-clock coverage via television, the web and Twitter, a clear picture of what has happened and is happening now in the Nairobi siege is not yet here.

The BBC's live report to which we are tuned via the web as we write is telling us that "there is a lot of gunfire", and smoke is billowing from the roof of Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall as we write (2:30 pm Monday, Israel time), amid reports that 2 of the "10 or 15" terrorists "including women" holed up inside have been killed. (But Reuters says "all of the terrorists are men [though] some are dressed as women").

The overall toll of victims is 62 and not as large as reported earlier though the BBC's presenter is saying "that number may rise very substantially". Meanwhile the Kenyan government's Interior Minister (in the screenshot below) is saying that "we are in full control of the situation... there is no room for escape".

Monday live coverage: Kenya's Interior Minister
We are clearly still in the fog of this particular battle in the ongoing war.

In a timely analysis, "The Terrorists Everyone Swore Were Beat Just Slaughtered 68 People", Shane Harris writes in Foreign Policy, published yesterday, reflects on an American angle:
The Westgate mall attack marks an audacious return for al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda linked group that, as recently as last year, U.S. officials claimed was on the run in the face of an American-backed offensive in Africa
AFP's reporting has been open about the role played by unspecified Israeli participants:
A Kenyan security source said Israelis "are rescuing the hostages and the injured". The Israeli foreign ministry refused to confirm or deny its agents were involved, although a Western intelligence official confirmed the Israelis were playing a frontline role. British and US agents were also at the scene, the source said. [AFP report in Hindustan Times today]
Media speculation about an Israeli role is ubiquitous. This headline, "Israeli special forces take on Nairobi terrorist group which may include Irishwoman", from The Independent (Irish Republic) is typical. And so is this: "Nairobi live: No Israeli soldiers, hostages in Westgate mall" from the Mumbai-based FirstPost.

There's speculation about a different kind of involvement, too.
The same group that claimed responsibility for an attack on a Kenyan mall this weekend that has claimed at least 62 lives has previously recruited dozens of Americans to join their cause. U.S. officials estimate that as many as 50 Americans have traveled to training camps in Somalia, the home of the al Qaeda-linked terror group al-Shabaab, over the last six years. Just last month, al-Shabaab released a video showing three young men claiming to be from Minneapolis who the terror group said later died as martyrs. "This is the best place to be honestly," one of the men says. "I can only tell you from my experience being here, that you have the best of dreams, you eat the best of food, and you're with the best of the brothers and sisters who came here for the sake of Allah. If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here. This is the real Disneyland, you need to come here and join us and take pleasure in this fun."
That's from "Terror Group That Claimed Kenya Attack Has Recruited Americans Before", published yesterday, September 22, 2013, on the ABC News website

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