Al Shabaab is a Threat to the World at Large

by Jerry Gordon (October 2013)

The Nairobi Westgate Mall Attack

Samantha Lewthwaite who was reported to be barking orders to her accomplices by hidden witnesses. Lewthwaite’s late husband was a suicide bomber in the London 7/7 attack that killed more than 67 people. [(61 civilian and 6 Kenyan security personnel), 200 wounded and 63 missing.] She left Britain several years ago and had allegedly been involved in training and conduct of al Shabaab attacks against Kenyan hotels.

reported still hospitalized. The death toll from the al Shabaab attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi may still rise. The victims ranged in age from 2 to 78. The oldest was a revered Ghanaian poet, diplomat and academic, Kofi Awoonor, a pan-Africanist who was revered in Ghana for his active support for his country’s independence.

likened the attacks to an al-Shabaab assault on Somalia’s main court complex in April 2013 that killed dozens and a 2010 al-Shabaab attack in Uganda’s capital that killed about 76 people.” He was in Columbus, on a tour of the US, which has the second largest Somali émigré community in the US, seeking to recruit returnees to assist in re-developing the war torn country.

Al Shabaab Claimed responsibility for the attack

Al Shabaab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage used social media including Twitter messages and You Tube video posts to communicate its demands. According to an initial report from Nairobi newspaper, The Nation, al Shabaab, an al Qaida (AQ) affiliate in Somalia, Tweeted responsibility for the attack:

The attackers were intent on killing and holding hostage infidels and Muslims who were not Shariah compliant. Note this from the Fox News report:

Witnesses say the gunmen asked victims they had cornered if they were Muslim: If the answer was yes, several witnesses said, those people were free to go. The non-Muslims were not.

During the assault by Kenyan security forces, al Shabaab spokesman Sheik Rage noted:


Enter the Israelis

report that AFP and Debka corroborated. Israel dispatched special operations teams to Kenya to assist and advise Kenyan forces in the negotiations and planning of contingency plans for securing the hostages at the Westgate Mall, “Israeli special forces said to be aiding Kenyan rescue operation.” We note that such assistance has a long history going back to the Entebbe hostage rescue of July 1976 during which Kenya provided refueling and other assistance to the Israeli special ops mission.

a siege has been ongoing since Saturday, and “are rescuing the hostages and injured,” AFP reported.

Survivors of the al Shabaab attack reported the assistance of private Israeli security personnel at the Westgate Mall in facilitating their escape to safety. Israelis were reported among the injured in the al Shabaab assault.

The Times of Israel noted the exchange of letters between Israeli President Shimon Peres and President Kenyatta of Kenya who lost close relatives in the Westgate Mall attack:

In 2002, terrorists in Mombasa blew up an Israeli-owned hotel and unsuccessfully tried to shoot down an Israeli passenger plane as it was taking off.

Questions Remain on Al Shabaab Planned and Executed Attack

awaiting the results to determine if there were any Americans among them. UK Counterterrorism authorities want to track down the whereabouts of the rumored White Widow, Samantha Lewthwaite, who left the UK for East Africa and may have joined up with Al Shabaab. Interpol has issued a red alert warrant for her arrest. Where is the balance of the alleged international Al Shabaab assault group? There are suggestions that Al Shabaab fighters may have changed clothes, left their weapons and ammunition behind and simply walked out with crowds of released hostages and escaped. Which brings us to the matter of accomplices. Perhaps among the 11 arrested in Kenya interrogations may reveal what they did to facilitate the attack. Counterterrorism experts are concerned about vehicles left in the mall garage for perhaps a month prior to the September 23, 2013 attack. These vehicles might have contained weapons, ammunition, explosives and detonation devices. There is even a possibility raised by experts that accomplices might have rented one of the vacant stores and stocked it with arms and ammunition. That raises the issue of how long ago the Al Shabaab team or accomplices had conducted reconnaissance of the 350,000 square foot Westgate Mall. How did they obtain building plans for the Westgate Mall? Where did funds come from to pay for  the operation? We note that in 2012 ex-pat Somali Muslims in the US alone had repatriated to Somalia over $215 million. How much of that may have been diverted to Al Shabaab? This should be investigated.

Al Shabaab broke away and recruited fighters from the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts. Intelligence estimates that the al Shabaab currently has a disciplined force of between 7,000 to 9,000 Jihadis. For a time al Shabaab had control of a portion of the capital, Mogadishu. Following the arrival of 12,000 African Union troops, including a contingent of 4000 Kenyan military in 2011, al Shabaab retreated to the south after being forced out of Kisamayo. Losing control of areas in Somalia, al Shabaab resorted to cross border attacks in Kenya against soft targets. In 2012, al Shabaab signed an agreement with Ayman al-Zawahiri formalizing its affiliation with Al Qaeda.

Mumbai rampage. More than 164 persons were killed and over 308 wounded, including several Jews at a Chabad House. 

The Nairobi al Shabaab attack is illustrative of a warning issued by AQ leader Ayman al- Zawahiri on 9/11/13 about a series of small but stunning attacks on Western assets including the US. This follows a mid-August secure conference call between al -Zawahiri and several affiliate leaders, including al Shabaab.

US Recruits in the Al Shabaab

killed was Daphne, Alabama native, Omar Hammami, born of an American Baptist mother and a Syrian Muslim engineer father. Hammami had become highly visible as a rap artist on recruiting videos for al Shabaab. He had been indicted by a Mobile, Alabama US grand jury for material support for terrorism. Hamami had earlier been head of the local Muslim Students Association chapter at the University of South, Alabama, before traveling first to Toronto and from there to Somalia to join al Shabaab. 

noted in an August 2013 Iconoclast post:

here. According to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Two Minnesota men named in a tweet by the terror group al-Shabaab as being among the attackers of the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya appear to be as fake as the Twitter account that posted their names, according to members of the local Somali community.

[. . .]

It soon became apparent the Twitter account was fake, and there is no record that anyone with those names lived in Minnesota.

Others in the assault team according to the al Shabaab Tweet allegedly came from Canada, the UK, Syria, Finland, Kenya, Dagestan, Sweden and Somalia.

indicated that al Shabaab had a large US contingent among the more than 250 foreign Jihadis in the group according to 2011 intelligence estimates. It further noted that US Law enforcement sources could not find matches for the Americans listed in the al Shabaab Westgate Mall assault team indicating that aliases might have been used or the Tweet might have been disinformation. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki at a Monday afternoon briefing said, “At this point, we have no definitive evidence of the nationalities or identities of the perpetrators.”

The NBC report noted the threat from the 20 US passport holders among the al Shabaab fighters in Somalia:

And in terms of where they are in the hierarchy, there are some Americans who are military commanders, but they will never be emir or deputy emir.

The NBC Report noted the al Shabaab attack in Mogadishu that injured a US Congressman in 2009 and the coincidental appearance of perpetrators in a New York Federal Court on September 23, 2013:

Three Somali men who were charged with taking part in the conspiracy to kill Rep. Payne appeared in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn on Monday.

Could a Nairobi type Swarming attack happen in the US?

convicted in a Minneapolis Federal court and given lengthy sentences on charges including in one case, conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure.

In the past few years, federal prosecutors say they have thwarted two planned attacks on malls, each of which would have been carried out by single attacker:

But attacks which have succeeded in causing casualties at American malls in recent years have been carried out by young lone gunmen with no apparent cause to promote:

killed five people before he was killed by police at a mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, in February 2007.
–A 22-year-old man killed two people and then himself at a mall near Portland, Oregon, in December 2012.

The CNN article noted what precautions the MoA has taken against this possibility:

A strategy to minimize the damage a lone attacker or an armed group could do before authorities arrive can be seen twice a month at the giant mall in Bloomington, Minnesota, which is visited by 43 million people a year.

onsider such swarming attacks as a high risk in America.

[ . . .]

UNHCR Refugee Camps in Kenya

Kenya hosts more than one million refugees from Somalia and the Sudan. As of August 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported:

The Dadaab and Alinjugur camps registered more than 5,700 new arrivals from Somalia, bringing the total population in these camps to some 474,000. In 2011, Dadaab registered 113,500 new arrivals over the same eight month period. The large numbers were mainly due to the prevailing drought, famine and insecurity in Somalia.

The UNHCR further noted the turmoil in the Dadaab Somali refugee camp:

In the recent past, the security situation in the Dadaab area has become high-risk and dangerous, following a series of incidents, including the abduction of aid workers and fatal attacks on refugee leaders and Kenyan security forces. This led to more restrictive security measures that curtailed humanitarian access to the camps.

estimated that the Somali émigré community has sent an estimated $215 million in remittances to Somalia nearly equal to the $242 million that the US provides in humanitarian assistance to Somalia. Somali refugee entry to the US via the State Department administered Refugee Resettlement program has been fraught with fraud which led to the shutdown of the P-3 Visa Family Reunification Program for over three years. Some US voluntary agencies which process Somali refugees have commented about innumerable instances of fraud. Somali émigrés have been involved in drug (Khat- a DEA Class A drug) and human trafficking, Medicaid and US Health and Human Services minority health grants fraud. Imams in major Somali émigré centers have been implicated in facilitating al Shabaab recruitment and transportation to Somalia for jihad training. Other Somalis have been convicted of funneling funds for al Shabaab via the Hawala money transfer system.

The Nairobi swarming attack is a clear indication that Al Qaeda is not on the run and that al Shabaab has a global reach. The US Refugee Resettlement and counter terrorism programs must address the possible threat from Somalis (and other Shariah compliant Muslim refugee groups) for this country to be safe from possible homegrown swarming attacks. That is the lesson from the Nairobi Westgate Mall attack.


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