The siege at a shopping mall in Kenya is entering its third day today. While the government has responded forcefully, the attackers – presumed to be terrorists from a subsidiary of Al Qaeda, and who’d have thought even terrorism would be corporatized? – have dug in pretty deeply:
NAIROBI — Loud explosions and sporadic bursts of gunfire could be heard coming from an upscale mall here on Monday, as Kenyan security forces tried to dislodge Islamist militants who were believed to be holed up inside the building with hostages for a third consecutive day.
By afternoon, large plumes of smoke were rising from the area, but it was unclear whether the explosions were triggered by the heavily armed militants from Somalia’s al-Shabab militia or by security forces inside the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall.
Al-Shabab is a Somalian-based, Al Qaeda derived group, existing in a nation that has no gun control, no taxes, and no central government. A perfect conservative experiment!
The Kenyan government claims that the hostages have either all been freed or killed (including up to five Americans, with at least one dead.) But then, wouldn’t a government claim they had any situation under control?
The thing that disturbs me most about this attack is that Al Qaeda has long used Africa as a staging area to signal when they were about to attack on US soil. In 1992, Osama bin Laden sent Al Qaeda forces into Somalia to assist the warlords in the battles with NATO forces. Also in 1992, bin Laden moved to Sudan.
Early 1993 saw the first World Trade Center attack by forces of Omar Abdel-Rahman, leader of an organization with close ties to Al Qaeda through Ayman al Zawahiri.
In 1998, attacks were executed against US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Naiobi. In 2000, Al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole.
And then, of course, came September 11. You could make the case that floating a fishing boat laden with explosives is not a bad test run for flying a plane loaded with fuel into an American skyscraper.
So what to make of a mall attack and hostage-taking (and potential destruction) in terms of an attack on American soil?