Sep 24 2013

Understanding Al-Shabaab’s Attack on the Kenya Shopping Mall

This past Saturday shoppers at a five story shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya were in a panic as members of the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab stormed in, spraying bullets and lobbing grenades. According to eye witnesses, members of al-Shabaab specifically targeted those who were not Muslim and took several hostages. Open fire between Kenyan security forces and al-Shabaab resulted in the deaths of at least 62 people with over 170 injured.

While Kenyan security forces are claiming that the situation is now under control with six al-Shabaab members killed and all hostages released, there have been conflicting reports on the situation and sporadic gunfire is still being heard inside the shopping complex. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s nephew was among the dead.

Members of the al-Shabaab group claimed the attack was staged as retaliation against the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia. In 2011 Kenya, along with the African Union, had sent 4,000 troops into Somalia to remove Shabaab from power. Somalia has not had a central government since 1991 and the United Nations estimates that there are currently about 5,000 members of al-Shabaab in the country. Al-Shabaab has been known to align itself with al-Qaeda.

GUEST: Abdi Samatar, professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a fellow at the University of Pretoria, and President of the African Studies Association of North America. He is of Somali descent.

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