Written by Andrew Baugh. Media by Mikey Courtney.
“The operation is now over,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address on Tuesday, September 24. The operation was a response to an attack a few days earlier on the Westgate centre shopping mall in Nairobi by Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab. “We have ashamed and defeated our attackers.”
A total of 61 civilians and six security troops are reported to have been killed in the incident, with an additional five Islamists shot to death by Kenyatta’s forces. The Red Cross reports that there are 39 people unaccounted for, but the government contests that there are no missing persons. “The numbers with us are what we are still showing as open cases that are reported to us,” Abbas Gullet, head of the Red Cross, said to the Associated Press. “The only way to verify this is when the government declares the Westgate Mall 100 per cent cleared — then we can resolve it.”
Ahmed Godae, leader of the al Shabaab group, confirmed on Wednesday, September 25, that his group was responsible for the Westgate assault. He claims the attack was in retaliation for a raid by Keyan’s forces in southern Somalia in October of 2011 to defeat insurgents. “Take your troops out or prepare for a long-lasting war, blood, destruction and evacuation,” Godane said in an audio post on an al Shabaab-linked website.
Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku reported on Friday that authorities are detaining eight people who have connections to the Westgate attack. Three others who had been kept in custody have been released. An additional person was arrested on Sunday, but Lenku refused to release any specific information about the suspects, saying, “we do not discuss intelligence matters in public.”
Kenya said it is “at war” with al Shabaab while answering questions on Saturday, September 28. Kenyan newspapers reported that last year the National Intelligence Service had cautioned about the existence of possible al Shabaab members in Nairobi that were preparing to attack the Westgate mall. “Every day, we get intelligence and action is taken as per that intelligence and many attacks averted,” Mueta Iringo, principle secretary in the Ministry of Interior, said to Reuters. “But the fact that you get the intelligence does not mean something cannot happen.”
In response to the current situation, The State Department issued a warning on Friday about the risks associated with traveling to Kenya, much to the chagrin of the country. “We believe issuing the travel advisory is counter-productive in the fight against global terrorism,” Lenku said. “We request the United States, as a friend to Kenya, lift the travel advisory.” Despite this hitch, Kenyatta thanked world leaders for their support, including President Barack Obama. “Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed,” Kenyatta said.
This tragedy cut short the lives of dozens of people, and we ask for your continued support and prayers for the victims and their families. How do you feel about the attack? Do you think the response could have been handled better or that the attack could have been prevented entirely? Should the U.S. assist in the “war” with al Shabaab? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.