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Yesterday there was a diary lamenting the lack of discussion of this tragedy in which terrorists stormed a popular shopping mall in Nairobi. Whatever the reasons for not having many diaries on the subject, it was suggested that the diarist had every right to write such a diary, and he more or less agreed. Since I wondered the same things about the lack of discussion, and I try not to be someone who expects others to do that which he is not willing, I figured I'd try a go at it myself, given the rapidly changing situation on the ground.

This was the deadliest attack in Kenya since the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings. The terrorists responsible for the attack entered the capital city's Westgate Premier Shopping mall around noon local time on Saturday, lobbing grenades and firing weapons, killing at least 62 people and injuring more than 175 (five Americans are among the wounded). The latest reports suggest that the tide has turned against the perpetrators:

Kenyan security forces on Monday seized control of a luxury shopping mall that had been attacked by Islamist militants, but officials said some assailants remained hidden inside stores in the mall and little was known about who staged the brazen attack and what countries they came from.

Who is Responsible and Why?

It is generally believed that (and credit/responsibility is claimed by) a group known as al-Shabab is behind this attack. Per CBS News, the organization is linked to al-Qaeda, but has its roots in Somalia and with ex-pat Somali communities:
Al-Shabab, which means "youth" in Arabic, was established in 2006 as a militant wing of the Islamic fundamentalist forces that controlled parts of Somalia at the time. Its stated mission was to bring Islamic sharia law to Somalia and topple the government.

By 2008, the U.S. had designated it a foreign terrorist group. In 2012, the organization formally allied itself with al Qaeda, issuing a joint announcement by the head of al-Shabab and Ayman al-Zawahri, then al Qaeda's deputy leader. Al-Shabab has provided the larger network significant cash from it's lucrative kidnapping and piracy operations in Somalia in return for weapons.

An unknown number of young Somali-American men, predominantly from areas in the U.S. like Minnesota and Oregon where there are large Somali populations, have been drawn in by the group's propaganda and traveled to eastern Africa to join its ranks.

Spokesmen for al-Shabab have said that they staged this attack as retribution for the Kenyan military presence in Somalia, where Kenyan troops have driven al-Shabab fighters out of much of the territory they once controlled. On Twitter, al-Shabab said that they have "on numerous occasions warned the Kenyan government failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences." The also claimed that "[t]he attack at Westgate mall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders."

Twitter has, as of this writing, shut down three al-Shabab accounts.

Conflicting reports have emerged as to how much of the mall and/or its shops are owned by Israeli interests, as this was initially thought to be part of the motivation of the attackers. However al-Shabab has not mentioned Israel as a reason, and Israeli sources have publicly stated that they have nothing to suggest that they were targeted.

What is the Latest?

The Washington Post reports that "Kenyan security forces...seized control of" the mall, "but officials said some assailants remained hidden inside stores in the mall and little was known about who staged the brazen attack and what countries they came from."

Agence France-Presse reports that Kenyan  Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters, "We think the operation will come to an end soon...We are in control of all the floors...The terrorists are running and hiding in some stores...There is no room for escape."

For their part, al-Shabab has claimed that they are still in control of the mall.

Whatever the final result, I think we can all hope and pray for an end without further loss of life and that those who are behind the attack and survive are brought to justice.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hopeful Tip Jar (19+ / 0-)

    “If anyone slays a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (Qur'an 5:32)

    Unapologetic Obama supporter.

    by Red Sox on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 12:23:54 PM PDT

  •  There was an astonishingly (8+ / 0-)

    long bit of journalism on NPR this a.m.  I forgot the name of the journalist (bad of me) but he was at the front lines so to speak of the assault, take-over, raging murder.  It sounded as if -- at 6 a.m. EDT -- the Kenyan forces had control of all of the floors of the mall except for the enclaves where the remaining terrorists held hostages.  

    The reporter then said that those at the perimeter were tear gassed to keep them back from the mall.  He had to retreat to a car but still kept reporting.  One of the few good things I've heard from NPR in a long time -- other than the regular programs.

    Thanks for the diary.  This situation is horrifying.  

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 12:42:22 PM PDT

  •  I was not that familiar with Al-Shabaab (4+ / 0-)

    but I stumbled across this article on Wikipedia today.

    These religious zealots stoned a 13 year old girl to death because she had the misfortune to be raped. They personify pure evil.

  •  Thank you for creating this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Red Sox, Catte Nappe

    This situation was featured on the front page of my local paper today (Seattle Times) and their article helped me understand this to some degree.

    To my surprise I remain queasy about this latest terrorist action due to the fact that it occurred at a "Westgate" mall; sheesh there's a Westgate mall less than a mile from me right at this instant, and only 2 miles from where I live.

    The terrorist attack "may" not have anything to do with it being a  "Westgate" mall, perhaps it was just a suitable location for their purposes.  But until I know better I'm slightly uneasy.

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead -

    by FlamingoGrrl on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 12:49:57 PM PDT

  •  Why no mention that Muslims were allowed to leave? (3+ / 0-)

    The deliberate singling out of non-Muslims for slaughter and as hostages by the terrorist/murderers is the most repellent aspect of this horror.

    BBC world news

    "The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted,''
    One Indian man
    was asked for the name of the Prophet's mother and when he was unable to answer, he was shot dead,
    Al-Shabaab claimed that "all Muslims" were escorted from the mall before the attack.
    It's interesting that you didn't mention this.  Why?

    Al-Shabaab also claims that three Americans and several Europeans were among the terrorists.  The FBI has not confirmed their involvement.

    Nonetheless, I do appreciate that you are keeping this story in the eyeview of DKos readers.

    •  Why the hostile interrogation? (6+ / 0-)

      It's quite possible the diarist was not aware of thsoe aspects of the story. S/he didn't claim any particular expertise or deep knowledge, but felt there should be some representation of the topic on the diary list so rather than gripe about others' failing to provide the conversation, stepped up and did it. You could also step up and do one covering the points you've raised.

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 01:58:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought that was pretty gentle (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jeff in nyc, auapplemac

        I acknowledged my appreciation for the diary, and recommended it.

        But I am seriously curious as to why that dimension of the story is being ignored here.  What do you think?

        •  Some may not be following this closely (5+ / 0-)

          Some of that information hasn't been particularly emphasized by the media, for those who may be following more closely.

          The potential for some of them being Americans got a fair bit of play on CNN yesterday, along with suggestions that malls in the US (especially Mall of America) might be at particular risk. On the reports that the terrorists let Muslims go free, I'm not sure the reports have confirmed that as more than "some say", so there may be reluctance to make that point until there is greater certainty. Given what is apparently known about the group it wouldn't be a surprising way to screen victims. Not unheard of either (se Entebbe).

          “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

          by Catte Nappe on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 02:17:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Its the Columbine effect (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe

            hysterical media rushing to tell stories. There were reports that the columbine killers targeted those who 'believed in god'. etc.

            Some of the assailants may well have allowed Muslims to leave. But clearly bullets sprayed indiscriminately into a crowd do not choose only Christian tartgets, so by any standard this was an attack on ALL people.

            Hell, one shooter paused to hand out Mars Bars to the children whos parents he just shot. People do crazy shit.

            Trying to make sense of the local political climate mixed with international terrorism mixed with mineral wars and a max exodus of refugees from Somalia by boiling it down to 'why is nobody talking about targeting muslims' is just silly in the grand scheme of things.

            "These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals" -BoA/HBGary/CoC

            by LieparDestin on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 03:10:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  true. it has not been consistently reported (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Red Sox, jeff in nyc, auapplemac

            Although most media are reporting this aspect of the story, some, such as the NY Times, have not (at least when I read it this morning).  Perhaps the eyewitness reports seemed too anecdotal.  But certainly the fact that the terrorist group itself has proudly proclaimed that Muslims were spared enhances the credibility of the personal reports.

            And yesterday, a Christian church in Pakistan was bombed.

            Scores Are Killed by Suicide Bomb Attack at Historic Church in Pakistan

            The attack occurred as worshipers left All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, after a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 people had attended and were leaving to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside when two explosions ripped through the crowd.
            It's not easy to imagine an act so purely antithetical to progressive values, but there was not a single comment on this site. .  Yet a diary on a Catholic priest caught molesting 15-year-old boy in car has 216 comments and 190 recs.

            Something about this whole picture looks very distorted to me.

            I suppose I should take up the challenge myself.  I doubt it would be well received though.  I will consider how it can be presented without triggering reflexive cries of "Islamophobia" and "RW talking points."  No easy task...

            •  You're right that you could easily get negative (3+ / 0-)

              reactions.  The whole "politics of indignation" is something of a minefield.

              For instance, in reference to the molesting priest vs the bombed church -- the latter obviously brought death and suffering to many more people, and is a major tragedy in that community, one that will be felt for many years.  On the other hand, it happened in Pakistan.  The molesting priest was in Scranton, PA.  We hear a lot more about what happens in Pennsylvania than in Pakistan, so more people react to it.  That's partly because unfortunately we think the US is the center of the world.  But it's partly because the world is very large.  Almost EVERYONE gets more news from close to them than far away.  

              And we know that this behavior by priests is an ongoing problem, which people have been stirred up about for years.  I at least don't know whether violence against Christians is a common problem in Pakistan, or almost as freakish as someone shooting up an elementary school in the US.

              Also, people feel their reactions to what happens in Scranton might matter.  In fact, the Catholic church in the US has been significantly impacted by furious reactions to scandals involving priests molesting children and youths.  Few people feel their reactions would impact what's happening in Pakistan.  That makes for less reaction.

              What I'm saying is that it isn't easy to judge people's motives when they react differently to different tragedies, especially if you focus on one or two incidents. If you seem to judge too quickly or from your prior assumptions, people get angry.

              Also, there  are simply too many tragedies in the world for us to comprehend and react to more than a fraction of them.  So there's a terrible randomness in what gets attention and what doesn't, even when the events are similar, and touch on issues many people care about.  I've read posts here, filled with sorrow and fury, about the stoning of a woman for adultery she may or may not have committed.  Yet apparently al-Shabab organized the stoning of a 14 year old girl for being raped, and I had heard nothing about that.  But it's not because people at DKos are indifferent to such mindlessly cruel violence.

              You seem to feel that the media (and the diarist) are downplaying the angle of Islamic violence against non-Muslims.  There are indeed times when Muslim extremists kill non-Muslims selectively. There are also times when they focus on killing other Muslims (see Suni vs Shia, both vs Kurds, etc.). There are times when they kill anyone who happens to be around.  (See bombing of US embassy in Kenya, in which over a thousand Kenyans were killed or injured, many of them Muslims).   It's important neither to deny NOR to overemphasize the Muslim vs non-Muslim aspect, because that does in fact play into the  conservatives' simplistic, Us vs Them, "Clash of Civilizations" view, and encourages hostility towards Muslims in general.

              So I hope that if you decide to discuss this topic further, you've taken a broad look at the patterns, and are really clear on what changes you want and don't want.

              --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

              by Fiona West on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 04:59:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Fair question (3+ / 0-)

      I intended to when I started writing it, and it is a pertinent piece of info. Then, as I was piecing together the elements,I straight up forgot. Thanks for not only providing the data, but sourcing it as well.

      Unapologetic Obama supporter.

      by Red Sox on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 04:08:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting this detailed diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davehouck, LieparDestin, jeff in nyc

    It is good to have this topic discussed here.

    "To see both sides of a quarrel, is to judge without hate or alarm" - Richard Thompson

    by matching mole on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 01:48:10 PM PDT

  •  I really fear for any remaining hostages (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LieparDestin, Fiona West, jeff in nyc

    If there are people still hiding in parts of the mall until it is safe, or they are rescued, they may make it out; but any who are in direct control of the terrorists are in grave danger I would think. In some cases a hostage can be a useful bargaining chip to negotiate a get-away, or more lenient terms. Somehow I don't think these guys are in that mode, though.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 02:08:47 PM PDT

    •  Which (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, Fiona West, auapplemac

      gives rise to the possibility that any number of shooters could have stashed their arms and 'gone civilian' getting away for another event.

      "These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals" -BoA/HBGary/CoC

      by LieparDestin on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 03:13:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Now there's a comforting thought - not n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fiona West

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 03:19:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The part that disturbs me is that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jeff in nyc

    It was a multi-national terrorist operation that I believe included recruits from Canada, the UK and three Americans.

    "I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights." (From "You Said a Mouthful" by Bishop Desmond Tutu - South African bishop & activist, b.1931)

    by FiredUpInCA on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 03:25:45 PM PDT

  •  The silence about this here has bowled me over. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FiredUpInCA, auapplemac

    Thank you for posting. I lack the knowledge to diary about Africa, but I think this is an enormous atrocity and deserves coverage here.

    “liberals are the people who think that cruelty is the worst thing that we do” --Richard Rorty Also, I moved from NYC, so my username is inaccurate.

    by jeff in nyc on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 07:53:16 PM PDT

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