Al Shabaab’s Jihad – The Secret History Behind the Westgate Mall Attack

by Geoffrey Clarfield (January 2014)

The siege lasted more than three days. The attackers killed more than sixty people. Scores more were injured and many hostages were tortured. I know one woman who hid during the siege for six hours and who luckily escaped, undetected by the attackers. There are reports that the perpetrators did their best to separate Muslim from non-Muslim hostages and allowed those who could prove their Islamic credentials to leave the mall. This attack was and is considered part of their Jihad against the Kenyan government and its Western allies. As the woman that I know happens to be Jewish, I can only imagine what would have been her fate had she not escaped. After the attack Al Shabaab announced on the Internet that their Jihad is also directed, against Israel, Zionists and Jews, something the mainstream press has conveniently ignored.

The attack is part of a wider clash of civilizations in East Africa that has been ongoing for more than two hundred years, or perhaps from the beginning of the growth of Islamic communities on the African Indian Ocean Coast and the immediate interior, during the 8th century. The Muslim ethnic groups that have established themselves on the East African coast have been pushing inland for centuries. They do so as either traders and colonists, or militant jihadists. Sometimes, they have taken on all or one of these roles and the Somalis, have been and continue to be major players in this expansion. One of the goals of Somali jihadists has been to either destroy or weaken the Christian nature of highland Ethiopia and whether as Christians, Muslims, Marxists or Nationalists, the Somalis and Ethiopians have fought many wars from medieval times to the most recent Ethiopian army incursions on their common border during the last 24 months.

Kenya is the home of Bantu and Nilotic tribes (and many formerly non-Muslim Oromo-Ethiopian nomads who straddle the northeast part of Kenya that is adjacent to southern Somalia), and who historically were the objects and victims of the coastal Muslim slave trade whose major epicenter was the Islamic state of Zanzibar (and which reached deep into the Congo) that was established by Omani Arab princes in the 19th century. The Somali slave trade was part of this wider network. During the second part of the 19th century the British actively took on the slave trade of East Africa and eventually closed it down by diplomacy and force. The Somali part of this slave trade was finally destroyed and outlawed when the British defeated a Somali Jihadist by the name of Muhammad Abdullah Hassan who mobilized the Somali clans to resist the British until they were finally defeated in the 1920s, and the modern 20th century Somali protectorates were established.

Throughout its history Somalia has comprised thriving coastal city-states and lineage based inland Sultanates which have both risen and fallen as a result of droughts, attacks by neighboring tribes or wider economic forces. It has and continues to be the custom for the young men of the tribe to herd camels and raid neighbors and so, we should not be surprised that the average age of a member of Al Shabaab corresponds to the traditional age when a young man would be out herding and raiding, as they used to do when Somali nomads lived in a more traditional manner.

The ongoing Somali civil war, the flooding of the country with machine guns, the Somali population explosion (it has quadrupled in fifty years), the droughts and periodic starvation have all amplified the violence and tragedy that was once played out with preindustrial technology such as spears and swords. The civil war is also aggravated by paradoxical economic trends such as the spread of an efficient cell phone system (that has flourished because of no government regulation and is a great way to organize a militia of herders). A flourishing livestock export boom parallels the slow penetration of foreign Al Qaeda fighters among native Jihadists, and whose profits may be fed back to pay for the guns and salaries that support the militias.

what is now Kenya.

As we can now see, these facts are just the latest externals, or the particulars, of a more ancient and deeper conflict which according to the international community was supposed to end when the majority of Somalis were brought under their own independent government in 1960, when the United Nations recognized the new state of Somalia made up of the northern (British administered) and southern (Italian administered) Somali lands. (The enclave of Djibouti opted to stay under the French and eventually gained its independence in 1977).

If the Kenyan government misses out on this development opportunity (they have the expertise and allies to pull it off and Israel could be very helpful here) one day, Kenyans may wake up to find that Somali nomads have become the main inhabitants of two thirds of their country. The Darod invasion will have succeeded and a large part of a country that was formerly a friend of Israel and the West will have fallen into the hands of those who want it destroyed.



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