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The Australian has today published my letter and a letter from a number of others (below) that cover not only the Kenyan massacres by Muslim extremists but the wider implications that raise policy issues on how Australia and other Western countries should handle the threat from such groups. Although there may be no connection, it is significant that (as reported below) Christian churches in Pakistan were attacked and many killed at the same time as this Islamic group attacked Christian Kenya (about 90% are reported to be Christians).

I have spoken and published on this before on this site and condemned the handling of the terrorist threat by Obama in particular. Not so long ago  he declared the war against terror was over. Soon after the US experienced the Boston bombings and the attack on its Benghazi consulate. He has now condemned the Nairobi attack and offered assistance to Kenya. With the report that two Americans may have been members of the attacking group, one hopes he will review his own attitude.

It appears that Australia’s Foreign Minister has also condemned the attacks but the text of her statement is not yet online. One would hope that the Abbott government will at least review the security checking of migrants, including refugees. It is evident that the open borders of Kenya provided easy access to the extremist Muslim group.

Des Moore

We should give Kenya our help and moral support
(Letters published in TALKING POINT, The Australian, 25 September 2013.)

YOUR editorial rightly says "the international community should be unhesitating" in helping Kenya deal with Islamic terrorism because "the threat could spread beyond Africa" ("Kenyan atrocity a wake-up call", 24/9). Indeed, Australia has already experienced a similar threat that was fortunately detected by our security agencies before any damage and loss of life occurred.

From this distance, Australia can offer only limited practical assistance but it can and should give Christian Kenya moral support directly, with our traditional allies and in international organisations. We should not wait for the nebulous "international community" to offer assistance.

It provides an opportunity for our new government to state that while Australia supports peaceful movements to establish genuine democratic institutions we are opposed to those that seek to establish the dominance of religious movements and particularly where this involves the use of force.

Such a policy should apply to countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and to those of our own radical religious movements that preach the use of violence.

Des Moore, Institute for Private Enterprise, South Yarra Vic

I WAS disturbed to read that taxpayers are funding Somali Muslim madrassas, or religious schools, with funding up to $30,000 to teach students the Koran ("Madrassa lessons worry Somalis", 24/9).

It brings to mind the 2004 Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that found Pakistan-born pastor and mathematician Daniel Scot guilty of religious vilification because he told a church seminar about passages in the Koran that require Muslims to slay infidels wherever they find them.

VCAT said Scot had incited hatred against Muslims, even though he had emphasised that most Muslims do not know or follow these verses. He said Christians should love Muslims and offer friendship. It took several years and huge legal costs before Scot was vindicated by the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Scot told the truth about the Koran - a truth most Australians do not want to hear. Will it take a home-grown al-Shabab massacre in an Australian shopping mall to make them listen?

Roslyn Phillips, Tea Tree Gully, SA

IT is such a relief to know that the majority of Muslims are peace-loving people. The turmoil that passes for daily life in most of the countries of the Middle East and Africa may, however, give a different impression.

If Islam is so peaceful why are Muslims fleeing elsewhere, then trying to enforce their peaceful sharia laws on Western societies? It is about time us infidels woke up.

Peter Jacobsen, Kangaroo Point, Qld

A QUICK look at a world map will show that at least 26 countries are experiencing peaceful Islam, says Brian Tiernan (Letters, 24/9). But what about the other 23? There are 49 Muslim-majority countries in the world.

The fact remains that Christians are persecuted in many Muslim countries. One exception is Saudi Arabia where Christianity is banned: there are no churches to bomb or burn.

Christian churches are frequently in the firing line. Most attacks occur when churches are packed with worshippers. In Pakistan, last Sunday, the bombing of a church killed 85. In Iraq, Christians are almost non-existent.

Church attacks by jihadi organisations are systematic and deadly - bombs and machineguns being standard equipment.

Henk Verhoeven, Beacon Hill, NSW

MODERATE Muslims: here is your chance to express outrage and condemn the actions of al-Shabab. Why haven't we heard from you? Do you have to be goaded into action? You must stand up and add your voices.

Richard Crispin, Jindabyne, NSW

Hunt for White Widow as Kenya mall siege continues
(AFP, 25 September 2013.)

ISLAMISTS behind an ongoing shopping mall siege warned last night they would stage more attacks if Kenya did not pull out of Somalia, where it has deployed thousands of troops since 2011 to push back the al-Qa'ida-linked al-Shabab insurgency.

"If not, know that this is just a taste of what we will do . . . you should expect black days," al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said, speaking in Arabic in an audio broadcast released by the extremists.

The pronouncement came as al-Shabab insurgents in Nairobi's upscale Westgate mall, where at least 65 shoppers, staff and soldiers are believed to have been killed, claimed to still be holding hostages. The siege has entered its fourth day.

A section of the complex's roof collapsed, apparently the result of fire burning in the building, and explosives experts were defusing devices set up by the militants. Kenyan authorities said three militants had been killed, but that still left several more, including Americans, and a British woman known as the "White Widow", who is wanted for links to other terrorist cells.

Government spokesman Manoah Esipisu had said earlier the siege was close to being declared over, with special forces "sanitising" the complex in case "there are a couple of them hiding in a remote room or corner".

However, the reality seemed less clear and there were fears last night the situation would drag on.

Al-Shabab have claimed the attack, which began at midday on Saturday when the armed militants marched into the packed upscale complex, tossing grenades, firing automatic weapons and sending shoppers fleeing.

No details on the numbers of hostages released have been given, but 63 people were earlier recorded missing by the Red Cross, a figure thought to include hostages as well as those possibly killed.

Special forces on Monday also killed at least three gunmen and wounded several in bitter fighting in the part Israeli-owned complex.

Outside the Westgate mall, police officers used teargas to disperse crowds of onlookers yesterday, amid fears a secondary attack could be imminent.

Kenyan defence chief Julius Karangi said the gunmen were of different nationalities. Many foreign fighters, including Somalis with dual nationalities, are members of the al-Shabab force.

In an interview with US public broadcaster PBS, Kenya's foreign minister said Americans and a British woman were among the attackers. "The Americans, from the information we have, are young men, about between maybe 18 and 19," Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said.

Asked if the Briton was a woman, she replied: "Woman. And she has, I think, done this many times before."

Her comments will fuel speculation that British terror suspect Samantha Lewthwaite, who was married to the July 7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay, was involved. Lewthwaite, dubbed the White Widow, is known to be in East Africa and is wanted by Kenyan police over alleged links to a plot to bomb the country's coast. Last year, officials said she had fled to Somalia and officers were hunting a woman who used several identities, including hers. A spokesman for the Foreign Office in London said the ministry was "aware" of Ms Mohamed's comment.

"We continue to liaise very closely with the Kenyan authorities and to support their investigation into this attack," he said.

"The UK will do everything it can to support the Kenyans bringing everyone responsible for this barbaric attack to justice."

MI5 is liaising with Kenyan security officials to identify Britons who could have been involved in the massacre. However, this process is complicated by a ban on automatically sharing secrets because of concern over Kenya's human rights record.

"This is not a local event," General Karangi said. "We are fighting a global event. We have an idea who they are, their nationalities."

He said he was gathering a detailed picture of the perpetrators' backgrounds. Police said they had arrested 10 people for questioning, including one suspect who was held at Nairobi's international airport yesterday.

Al-Shabab said the attack was a response to Kenya's decision to send troops into Somalia in support of an African Union force, which helped to oust the militant group from power.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta called the assault an "evil and cowardly act of terrorism" and vowed to continue to fight against the Somali militants.

"I want to be very clear and categorical: we shall not relent on the war on terror. We will continue that fight, and we urge all people of goodwill throughout the world to join us and to ensure that we uproot this evil," he said.

Kenyan atrocity a wake-up call
(The Australian, 24 September 2013.)

THE slaughter of innocent men, women and children perpetrated by Islamic militants at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Kenya, a country that is a longstanding and important Western ally, should leave the international community in no doubt about the dire consequences when failed states are allowed to become breeding grounds for terrorism.

Somalia, the wreck of a country on the Horn of Africa from which the evil, al-Qai'da-affiliated al-Shabab thugs responsible for the massacre emanate, has lacked stability since the regime of General Siad Barre, a Soviet toady, lost power in 1991.

In the ensuing anarchy - with the international community unable and unwilling to do much - the worst forms of malevolent Islamic extremism have spawned and thrived, leading to the attack by the al-Shabab terrorists that claimed the lives of scores of people, including Tasmanian-born architect Ross Langdon and his pregnant wife Elif Yavuz. Another 200 people were wounded.

The merciless savagery of the al-Shabab militants as they set about killing and maiming, spreading terror through the vibrant heart of Nairobi, is almost incomprehensible. Its brutality beggars belief, but it was in line with the group's notoriety as an Islamic terrorist organisation. Its depths of depravity include summary beheadings and the stoning to death of young girls. If any good is to come out of the horror in Nairobi, the hope must be that the world will be spurred into action against such terrorists.

Kenya, which has 4000 soldiers in Somalia as part of an African Union military force battling to restore security to Somalia, is the al-Shabab terrorists' immediate target, but Nairobi needs help and the international community should be unhesitating in coming to its aid because the threat posed by the Somali terrorists could spread beyond Africa. Al-Shabab is operating closely with al-Qa'ida and in conjunction with the equally vile Boko Haram terrorists in oil-rich Nigeria and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Given the large Somali diaspora around the world, attacks could also be staged elsewhere. Significantly, intelligence reports suggest al-Shabab is being being reinforced by foreign jihadists, including some from Western countries. A British woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, an Islamic convert known as the "White Widow" who was married to one of the 2007 London bombers, has been linked to al-Shabab.

Recently, perceptions had grown that al-Shabab was losing ground. Senior US officials claimed the Islamist group was on the run after staging a tactical retreat from Mogadishu, the Somali capital, and losing control of the port of Kismayo from which they launched their piracy and kidnapping attacks on the east African coast. The horror perpetrated in Nairobi shows the optimism was misplaced.

Such atrocities cannot be tolerated and the international community cannot turn a blind eye. It is to the credit of the African Union that it is leading the way in seeking to deal with al-Shabab, but far more than Africa's interests are at stake in the battle. As the death toll in the Nairobi massacre again shows, Islamic terrorism threatens us all, and the international community must do all it can to confront it. Somalia's chaos and the terrorism it has spawned as a failed state was allowed to fester for far too long.

Protests mount as Christian death toll in Pakistan rises
Article by Amanda Hodge published in The Australian, 24 September 2013.)

WITH its white domes and minarets, Peshawar's historic All Saints church was built to look like a mosque, but such architectural sensitivities could not save the 81 parishioners who have died since twin suicide blasts ripped through Sunday's congregation.

The rising death toll from the worst attack on Pakistan's minority Christian community sparked nationwide protests yesterday and a backlash against Imran Khan's recently elected government in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

As mourners began burying their dead, and doctors treated at least 131 wounded, Mr Khan's PTI party experienced rare public anger.

"Shame, shame, we don't want your posters and slogans. Come and help us," shouted families of the dead and injured as a KPK MP tried to hold a press conference near Lady Reading hospital.

Others hit out at his government's recent Taliban prisoner releases, part of the former cricketer's strategy to negotiate with home-grown militants.

"The government instead of giving severe punishment to the culprits has been releasing militants and criminals from prisons," Father John William said.

Later, Mr Khan said, "This is a not the time to play politics", before launching an outburst on the previous administration.

"Let me remind you that 211 terror attacks have occurred in Peshawar in the last five years and 210 of these happened when PTI was not in government," he said.

Eyewitnesses said two young suicide bombers carrying hand-grenades and pistols began firing on parishioners as they filed out on to the front lawns for lunch. They then detonated suicide vests packed with up to 6kg each of explosives and ball bearings.

Hours after the blasts, the country's Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, promised a new security plan for churches and other minority places of worship, considered soft targets by terrorists.

The federal government would also bear reconstruction costs for the historic church, which was to have marked its 130th anniversary in December.

The attack drew international condemnation, the Pope calling it an act of "hatred and war" and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging Islamabad "to do everything possible to find and bring the perpetrators to justice".

En route to New York for the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the "cruel" attack violated the tenets of Islam, and suggested his government would not proceed with proposed Taliban peace talks.

Mr Sharif, too, is facing rising fury from the country's besieged minorities over his perceived appeasement of militants and extremists. Even as Christians in Pakistan's financial capital, Karachi, burned tyres in the streets in anger, Afghan Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was said to be hiding in a safe house there following his release from prison on Saturday.

A day before the deadly Peshawar attack, police in rural Punjab demolished minarets at a mosque of the persecuted Ahmadi Muslim sect after a group of protesters threatened to do so themselves.

Militant group Jandullah, one of the many Taliban-affiliated offshoots to have risen out of the ongoing Pakistan insurgency, has owned up to Sunday's attack, which it claims was in retaliation for US drone strikes in nearby tribal border areas.

The same group executed 10 foreign and Pakistani climbers in the remote Himalayan region of Gilgit in June.

Pakistan's Christian community represents less than 2 per cent of its 180 million people.

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