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The three articles below confirm the serious implications of the Islamic attack in Nairobi not only for Kenya but for other countries which have extremist Muslim groups. It is likely that more will emerge from what is now clear to have been a well planned attack in Nairobi. While more difficult to emulate in Western countries, the possibility of a copy cat action cannot be ruled out.

My surmise is that many more died in the mall than the 60 or so officially reported. And if the Comment included on the Los Angeles Times web (after the first article) is correct, some of the hostages were not simply killed – they were savaged.

Des Moore

Kenyan security chiefs must testify in Nairobi mall attack
(Article by Nicholas Soi and Robyn Dixon published on 27 September 2013.)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Amid reports that there were unheeded warnings of a terrorist attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, turf wars between police and army units and friendly fire fatalities, a Kenyan parliamentary committee has summoned security chiefs to explain what went wrong.

The security officials are expected to appear at a committee hearing next week, according to news reports Friday.

"The time for responsibility and accountability has come," the committee chairman, Ndung'u Gethenji, told reporters.

The Daily Nation newspaper has reported on arguments over who was in charge, and confusion and jostling between various Kenyan security agencies ordered to respond to the mall attack that began Sept. 21, lasted several days and left at least 72 people dead. The Kenya Red Cross Society says 61 people remain missing.

Some security units went into the building — where hundreds were trapped by gunmen — with a mission to rescue a group of VIPs, the newspaper reported. There was no confirmation of who the VIPs were, but those inside at the time included President Uhuru Kenyatta's son, the president's sister and her son and the son's fiancee. Kenyatta's nephew and the fiancee died.

During the crisis, the first response from Kenyatta and others in the political elite was a call for Kenyans to pull together. In an address to the nation on the mall crisis, Kenyatta announced that police chief David Kimaiyo was in charge, to make the chain of authority clear.

As days have passed with little information on the fate of hostages and missing people, Kenyans' patience has frayed and people have begun demanding answers.

The Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Several Kenyan news reports Friday cited sources saying that intelligence chief Michael Gichangi had warned police chiefs about a possible terrorist attack on the mall. Police denied the allegation in comments to the Daily Nation.

The Star and Daily Nation both reported that a pregnant woman was warned by her brother, an intelligence officer, not to visit the mall because it would be attacked. She usually shopped there on Saturdays.

Disputes over who was in charge delayed the rescue of civilians, according to local media.

"Inquiries by the Nation indicate that a coordinated rescue mission was badly delayed because of disputes between the Kenya Police and KDF [Kenya Defense Forces] officers commanding their units on the ground," the Daily Nation reported.

A police unit that had begun evacuating civilians had a group of militants pinned down near the Nakumatt Supermarket, the newspaper reported, but the officers walked out after their commander was killed by friendly fire from a Kenyan army unit.

"The pullout left a vacuum that apparently allowed the terrorists to regroup and move through the mall slaughtering many captives. It also allowed the terrorists to deploy heavy-caliber machine guns that they had not used in the earlier shootout," the report said. "The teams also appeared to have had different aims. One officer involved said that some units had a priority to locate and rescue a specific group of VIPs."

An unidentified Kenyan official reportedly told the Associated Press on Friday that the actions of the Kenyan military caused the collapse of a section of the mall, which may have buried some hostages and militants.

The official told the AP that Kenyan troops fired rocket-propelled grenades inside the mall, but did not explain what caused four explosions Monday. Many observers believe it is likely that the building collapse occurred after the explosions.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku had said that a mattress fire set by militants had structurally weakened the mall, causing its collapse. He retreated from that statement Wednesday, saying engineers were examining the causes, but he insisted that the number of hostages' bodies buried in the rubble was "insignificant."

The forensic investigation and excavation of the mall, to search for more bodies and to try to establish attackers' identities, is expected to take more than a week.

Forensic experts from the United States, Israel, Germany, Britain and Canada are involved in the investigation.

Special correspondent Soi reported from Nairobi and Times staff writer Dixon from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times


AbdulKeddou at 1:36 AM September 28, 2013

American mainstream media is trying to deflect blame from the CENTRAL cause of the Westgate Mall Massacre > ISLAMIC TERRORISM.

*LA Times and others are ignoring the BARBARITY of these Muslim savages:*

*"Soldiers told of the horrific torture meted out by terrorists in the Nairobi mall massacre yesterday with claims hostages were dismembered, had their eyes gouged out and were left hanging from hooks in the ceiling.

Men were said to have been castrated and had fingers removed with pliers before being blinded and hanged.

Children were found dead in the food court fridges with knives still embedded in their bodies.

‘You find people with hooks hanging from the roof,’ said one Kenyan doctor, who asked not to be named.

‘They removed eyes, ears, nose. They get your hand and sharpen it like a pencil then they tell you to write your name with the blood. They drive knives inside a child’s body.

'Actually if you look at all the bodies, unless those ones that were escaping, fingers are cut by pliers, the noses are ripped by pliers.’

Between 10 and 15 terrorists are thought to have stormed the mall on Saturday, according to Kenyan officials.

The police said five insurgents were killed in the battle and at least 10 taken into custody."

FMSaigon at 1:30 AM September 28, 2013
I have been wondering when the analysis about the effectiveness of the security response would start. Normally in a hostage situation there is negotiation, preparation, then often an abrupt operation to end the standoff. Here the security forces went straight into the shopping mall and were fighting for three days against a dozen (?) militants (number unclear days later). It seems extraordinarily poorly executed to me.

emwj567 at 7:42 PM September 27, 2013
No amount of hostage bodies should be termed "insignificant". What a thoughtless comment.

Jihadists turn to urban warfare
(Article by Christina Lamb published in The Times, 29 September 2013.)

THE attack on the shopping mall may have been the result of American efforts to break up al-Qa'ida, according to the man who first advocated the strategy.

"I said back in 2005 we need to destroy al-Qa'ida Central and reduce the threat down to regional and national level, where national governments can deal with it and the US doesn't have to be the world's policeman," said David Kilcullen, a former adviser to General David Petraeus in Iraq and Afghanistan and one of the world's leading experts on counterterrorism.

"We kind of succeeded in doing this, but what we've got now is very capable local and regional al-Qa'ida groups which need more than a national response. So we haven't had another 9/11, but we have Nairobi and Mumbai."

He expects the Nairobi attack to be copied. "When there is a successful terrorist attack, a lot of other groups sit up and take notice and ask, how can I do similar?" he said. "These guys have pointed the way to how easy it is."

A shopping mall is a "soft and attractive target", he added. "There are lots of nooks and crannies to hide in, big open spaces that make fields of fire with crowds of people who are vulnerable, and lots of entrances and exits to get in and out."

Just as he expects copycat attacks on shopping centres, he believes the Nairobi attack was modelled on that carried out by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai in 2008. Some 164 people were killed when luxury hotels, a cafe, a railway station and a Jewish centre were attacked simultaneously.

"The tactics they adopted were basically identical," he said. "It's what I call urban siege. Instead of a classic bombing, where the event is over in a moment and the publicity lasts a day, here you go in and hold a complex piece of urban terrain and draw the battle out. Both attacks lasted the same time, 100 hours."

It may be no coincidence that the current leader of al-Shabab became a jihadist in Pakistan. Ahmed Abdi Godane went there in the 1990s on a scholarship and ended up fighting in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Kilcullen believes a major motivation for the Nairobi attack was for Godane to assert his leadership. This had been threatened in recent months with the movement splitting and losing some of its more moderate leaders. US officials were describing the organisation as finished.

He argues that though the attack captured worldwide attention - and numbered westerners among its victims - its main aims were regional and internal.

"It was a bloody announcement that al-Shabab is still in the game, but really it was all about what's going on in Somalia," he said.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African force, Amisom, and their intervention helped drive al-Shabab out of their stronghold in the southern city of Kismayo.

Kilcullen believes the Nairobi attack was designed to disrupt the city for as long as possible to teach Kenya a lesson, to unify its own ranks and to show people al-Shabab are still a force to be reckoned with.

They may also have been trying to provoke the Kenyan government to crack down on Somali communities in the suburbs of Nairobi, he said. "If they do this, it will alienate the population and push them into the arms of al-Shabaab."

Kilcullen warns that terrorist groups are focusing increasingly on cities, not just as hiding places but as war zones with overstretched resources, making them hard to police. "For the past decade our security forces have been focusing on getting terrorists in mountains and valleys, not realising they are moving into cities," he said. His new book is Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla.

The Times

Horrific violence as the Arab Spring gives way to the Islamist spring
(Article by Greg Sheridan, published in The Australian, 28 September 2013.)

AL-QA'IDA is back. Terror is on the march, geographically, organisationally and ideologically, winning a place in the hearts of tens of thousands of young Muslim men.

The Arab Spring is dead. The Islamist spring has taken its place. The liberalism of the Arab Spring is gone. The intolerance of al-Qa'ida is resurgent.

Who won the Arab Spring? Al-Qa'ida.

The terrorist murders in the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi should not be seen in isolation. During the same week, Islamist terrorists in Pakistan blew up a church, killing 70 people.

Last month, the US closed more than 20 of its diplomatic missions across the Middle East because it had intercepted a communication from al-Qa'ida's chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, suggesting an attack was likely.

This year al-Qa'ida in Iraq has killed thousands of people, in violence that rivals the worst days of the post-invasion insurgency against the US. Several months ago a British soldier was hacked to death in Woolwich by extremists inspired by al-Qa'ida.

The Nairobi killings were carried out by the Somali al-Qa'ida affiliate, al-Shabab.

The venue, symbolism and theatre of the attack were highly choreographed, and borrowed stylistically from the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai three years ago. This was a low-tech, high-impact operation. One of the victims was an Australian.

A very small number of Australians of Somali background have travelled to Somalia to train and fight with al-Shabab. There are unconfirmed reports from the Kenyan government that American and British Somalis were involved in the Nairobi killings.

The choice of a shopping mall was deliberate. These centres aresymbols of the new Africa. They were the one place where Kenyans of all racial and religious backgrounds, and of widely diverse economic means, mingled and mixed easily together.

What does all this say about al-Qa'ida?

US President Barack Obama declared after the death of Osama bin Laden that al-Qa'ida was all but defeated. The war on terror, he has said, is no longer a defining factor in US policy. Julia Gillard's defence white paper made a similar judgment. The war on terror era was over.

Obama and Gillard were both wrong.

Al-Qa'ida is now stronger and bigger than it was when it mounted the 9/11 terror attacks. But it is not your grandfather's al-Qa'ida. It is a changeling, protean, adaptable.

America is a mainframe power, but today's al-Qa'ida is a cloud technology movement. America is IBM, al-Qa'ida is Google. American power is like the clunky automobiles of Detroit. Al-Qa'ida power is akin to the hand-held tablet, decentralised among multitudes of customers.

America has attacked relentlessly, and with great effect, the vertical structure of al-Qa'ida central. In response, al-Qa'ida has become a horizontal organisation, operating mainly through its franchises.

Al-Qa'ida is a brand, loosely connected to the centre, a centre that is still important, still intact. It has vastly more geographical spread than ever, with more dedicated adherents.

Its affiliates operate autonomously. But they are all hooked up to al-Qa'ida's global ideology and purposes. They think global and act local. Their roots in their local society make them all the deadlier and are no barrier to an easy flow of international co-operation and recruitment.

In more than a decade of the war on terror, the US and its allies have had their feet on al-Qa'ida's throat. This has been important. Al-Qa'ida has not been able to repeat its 9/11 mass atrocities in the West. But it has spread its ideology, its interpretation of the world, its operating systems and its geographical reach.

Today there are tens of thousands of people who regard themselves as affiliated to al-Qa'ida, many more than was the case at the time of 9/11, and they threaten the viability or security of many more states, some of them key Western allies. That is a remarkable success for al-Qa'ida.

Al-Shabab is a case in point.

It emerged from the vicious collapse of order in Somalia. It derived from a group calling itself the Islamic Courts Union and was devoted to sharia law.

It was the militant youth wing of this movement. Somewhat like the Taliban in Afghanistan, at first it achieved some popularity by bringing some order to a scene of naked anarchy, of war of all against all.

It put warlord thugs through Islamic boot camp and gave them identity and purpose.

But it was always extreme and addicted to extreme violence. Western policymakers took some comfort in the idea that it was interested only in nationalistic Somali goals. It took control of much of Somalia's territory, including parts of Mogadishu and the port town of Kismayo.

But Ethiopian, later African Union and eventually Kenyan troops intervened to drive al-Shabab from power. It still controls chunks of Somali territory, but much less than before.

Despite intense and bloody internal splits, al-Shabab undertook a courtship of al-Qa'ida central and finally last year declared its allegiance to al-Qa'ida and to its global agenda. Al-Shabab still has several thousand, perhaps as many as 8000, active fighters.

But al-Qa'ida has had numerous organisational successes elsewhere. Syria is the standout. The al-Nusra Front is an al-Qa'ida franchise, fully committed to al-Qa'ida organisationally and ideologically. It is by far the strongest fighting force in the Syrian opposition. It commands at least several thousand fighters. There is another al-Qa'ida affiliate in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Syria demonstrates the limits of US influence. After a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is weary of war and reluctant to get involved in the Middle East. That is understandable. But in the early days of the Syrian conflict the US might have acted in two effective ways. It might have stopped Bashar al-Assad from being so brutal in his treatment of the Syrian people. Or it might have supported decisively the moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.

It did neither. This was understandable. But inaction has its costs, just as action does. The choice in Syria now is between a dictator who uses chemical weapons on his own people, and an opposition dominated by al-Qa'ida loyalists. The liberal ideas of the Arab Spring are nowhere.

More than that, Syria is the new Afghanistan. Volunteer jihadis are flocking in from all over the world, including Australia. An Australian recently died fighting with al-Nusra.

Something in the order of 70 Australians, though figures are very imprecise, are believed to be in Syria supporting al-Nusra, with perhaps 200 Australians overall offering some support.

When Western jihadis return to their Western societies they will do so blooded in battle, trained in terrorist and weapons techniques, and formed in the most extreme ideology. Already the Syrian alumni are beginning to come back to Australia, so far in very small numbers, a handful at most at this stage.

Another al-Qa'ida affiliate, Ansar al-Jihad in Sinai, has used the collapse of central Egyptian authority to turn the Sinai desert, which borders Israel, into a lawless zone of jihadi extremism. The new military government of Egypt is working hard to restore order in the Sinai.

Meanwhile al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula continues to hold substantial sections of territory in Yemen and is considered one of the most operationally sophisticated and deadly al-Qa'ida branches. Thus a threat involving this group in dialogue with Zawahiri, led to the closure of US embassies in the Middle East in August.

One of the most successful franchises, al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, took possession of a large part of Malian territory and had to be beaten back by the insertion of French troops. It operates not only in Mali but in Libya, Algeria, Eritrea, Mauritania, Chad, Niger and other neighbouring countries.

It has benefited from the chaos in Libya. Much of Libya is now in the hands of rival war lords and tribal clans. Huge quantities of Libyan weaponry are now in al-Qa'ida hands.

Boko Haram, al-Qa'ida's Nigerian affiliate, has killed hundreds of innocent civilians and mainly targets Christians.

Al-Qa'ida itself still shelters in the tribal areas of Pakistan. A number of powerful Pakistani jihadist groups, such as the Haqqani network and elements of the Pakistan Taliban, co-operate with it.

When Western troops leave Afghanistan the country will almost certainly splinter into semi-autonomous zones controlled by different war lords and factional groups. Some of the still powerful Afghan Taliban have rejected al-Qa'ida, some remain in close cooperation. That co-operation is likely to increase when Western troops are gone.

Al-Qa'ida still has a relationship with Iran, notwithstanding the Sunni-Shia hatred that should preclude co-operation. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And al-Qa'ida and Iran have lots of enemies in common.

There are numerous other al-Qa'ida affiliates. Of course, the organisation's limitations must be recognised. None of these groups looks like attaining state power. None looks like getting its hands on nuclear weapons, though al-Nusra could conceivably get chemical weapons in Syria. Western security agencies have prevented large-scale terror attacks in the West. But in Africa and the Middle East it is becoming extremely dangerous to be a friend of the West.

Three giant, unpredictable dynamics are flowing through the Middle East.

The first is the epic Sunni-Shia conflict, the second the dramatic decline of US influence. On two of the biggest immediate issues facing the region, Egypt and Syria, the US has almost no significant influence. On the third, Iran, there is every reason to fear the Iranians will seduce the Obama administration into some relaxation of sanctions while not giving up their nuclear weapons program.

The third giant regional dynamic is the collapse of the liberal promise of the Arab Spring.

There are small pockets of good news. No country has handled the Arab Spring better than Morocco. It has liberalised and democratised a bit more but remained stable and moderate. Tunisia hangs in the balance.

The dynamics of Syria are working against Hezbollah. It is seen increasingly as a cat's paw of Iranian power in Syria rather than an Arab resistance group against Israel. It is also seen as importing Syrian sectarian tensions into Lebanon.

The situation in Egypt is exceptionally complex. The liberalism of Tahrir Square is all but dead. The rule of the Muslim Brotherhood was a colossal failure. The military has reasserted order and tackled the jihadists in Sinai. It also has effectively outlawed the Brotherhood. Washington's advice is no more than calling for meetings between the government and the Brotherhood. The reversion to military rule in Egypt is a reversion to an old method of dealing with jihadist extremism. Can it work long term?

In his strange speech to the UN this week Obama pledged the rest of his presidency to negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran and seeking a Palestinian state. Both are unobtainable. They should not be linked. The speech all but ignored the roiling and central issues in the greater Middle East today.

But there was one passage of profound truth. Obama declared: "The danger for the world is that the US, after a decade of war, rightly concerned about issues back home, and aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world, may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill."

Is this a future prophecy or a present description? Either way, Obama never said a truer word.

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