News / Africa

Analysts Debate Strength of al-Shabab

Mary Italo, center, grieves with other relatives for her son Thomas Abayo Italo, 33, who was killed in the Westgate Mall attack, as they wait to receive his body at the mortuary in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.
Mary Italo, center, grieves with other relatives for her son Thomas Abayo Italo, 33, who was killed in the Westgate Mall attack, as they wait to receive his body at the mortuary in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.
William Eagle
 
The attack on a mall in Kenya this week by a radical Islamic group came as a surprise to many. The Somalia-based al-Shabab had lost territory and influence over the past few years.  But as policymakers coordinate a response to the terror attacks, some analysts warn against an aggressive military response inside Somalia that could alienate locals, and increase support for extremists.
 
Since Kenya joined the African Union Mission in Somalia with the backing of Ethiopian troops, al-Shabab’s hold on southern Somalia seems to have weakened.
Its attacks seemed to be reduced to hit-and-run attacks or the use of suicide bombers.

Until now.

This week, several fighters attacked Nairobi’s Westgate mall with machine guns, grenades and other weaponry.  Al-Shabab claimed credit.

Some analysts say the change in tactics comes as the result of internal feuding between factions. They say hardliners want spectacular attacks on regional enemies that can also improve recruitment, while others, dubbed “nationalists,” want the focus to stay strictly within Somalia.

The hardliners are led by Ahmed Abdi Godane, who has quarreled with other members of al-Shabab and executed top commanders including American-born militant Omar Hammami.  He is said to have criticized the brutal treatment of fellow Muslims by al-Shabab’s occupying forces. ….

Reuters quotes diplomatic and Somali intelligence sources that say the attack may have involved Godane’s secret service, the Amniyat, which has its own chain of command and finances. It may also have included a Shebaab unit called Iktihaam, Arabic for “to storm in.”

Anneli Botha is a senior researcher with the Transnational Threats and International Crime Division of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria.  She said al-Shabab has always been violent, and is not sure it’s necessarily a change in the group’s leadership that moved the group to an extreme.

"I don’t think the hardliners took control," said Botha.

"Gadane who is still the leader is still a hardliner, and the fight was not between moderates and extremists but between locals and foreigners. There were quite a few eliminations of foreign fighters considered to be potential traitors. Losing ground in Somalia led to suspicion between different factions of al-Shabab and that foreigners may be selling them out."

Yet, the purge within al-Shabab did not eliminate foreign participation. Botha said the Islamic extremist group relies on the participation of regional recruits to help plan and carry out attacks. She said, for example, that a Ugandan cell was instrumental in the 2010 bombings in Kampala that killed over 70 people. 

And Kenyan authorities say foreigners appear to be among those involved in the mall assault. Botha said her colleagues in Nairobi had also received tweets claiming to be from al-Shabab naming the nationalities of the attackers. Other news agencies have also received notes allegedly sent by the group. Most have not been independently verified.
 
"I don’t know how true it is, but [our Nairobi office] got a message from al-Shabab with more details on those responsible for the attack," said Botha. "I was amazed by the number of foreigners involved:  two Somalis, a Kenyan, a Swede, one from Finland, one from the UK, 6 from the US, one from Russia and two from Syria.

"If that’s verifiable information, then it’s not only the attack (which has an international flavor) but those behind the attack. With that come other questions: if we think al-Shabab cleaned house and went after foreigners, having such a large number of people involved that are foreigners is quite interesting. It’s still early days…But if it’s true, we have to do a very different analysis."

Observers say part of the effort to end al-Shabab is to dry up funding, which comes from a variety of sources. They include the Somali Diaspora, al-Qaeda, and revenues earned by the group from smuggling, taxes and revenues on the sales of dates, bananas and small livestock from the time it held the Somali port of Kismayu.

But analysts say there’s more, including a network of cultural and religious institutions in Kenya. They include a Kenya-based affiliate from Nairobi’s Majengo neighborhood called al-Hijra, which also has experience fighting in Somalia.

"All of these groups understand which buttons to push, and when," said Botha. 

"If I look at Kenya, there is a growing sense of the split between Nairobi and the coast. There is the Mombasa Republican Council that wants to secede because they feel they’ve been treated as second class citizens;  the same in Tanzania – with Zanzibar and Pemba that want to separate from the mainland. The root of all of this is effective nation building has not succeeded."

The attacks are likely to bring about change.

The press has criticized the performance of the immigration services and the Kenyan police.

Anneli Botha, who has held training workshops with law enforcement officers, said the issue of police effectiveness is not limited to Kenya.

"Every country on this continent has a problem with corruption," she said. "Some of them have massive problems with (civil service) salaries being paid: I think the police are often the poorest paid within the continent.  Similarly, in some cases the military do get better training and better equipment and salaries in some countries.

"All of these issues need to be addressed. I know Kenya is going through a new reconstruction process [of the political system] and police reform process. And I hope one could take these lessons and move forward. "
 
There’s also concern that the attacks may affect domestic politics.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court this week adjourned the court proceedings against Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto so he could return to help deal with the crisis. He and President Uhuru Kenyatta are being tried for their alleged roles in post-election violence six years ago.

Analyst Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, is concerned the attacks will move the focus from much needed political and economic reforms in Kenya.

"The ICC suspended the trial for this week, " she said. "This does not mean the trial should be cancelled, but my expectation is that Kenya’s political leadership will try to use this and the broader counter-terrorism agenda to end the ICC trial and find a way to avoid reforms to devolve power, to include groups that have been underrepresented, and they will try to use counter-terrorism cooperation as leverage for getting away with same old policies that are deeply unhealthy and destabilizing (for the country) in the long term."
 
There may also be calls for the US to take direct military action in the region.
Former Army vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli told American television that US forces are likely developing a list of al-Qaeda targets in the region in reaction to the mall attack. 

Some analysts assert that until now, the US has not placed as much emphasis on drone strikes in Somalia, as it has in Yemen and Pakistan. They say the Obama administration has avoided direct military involvement in Somalia to prevent retaliatory attacks on US diplomatic posts. Instead, analysts say the US shares intelligence and provides training and support for US allies in the region, including AMISOM troops in Somalia. The US also has the ability to deliver logistical support and equipment using air and sea routes, as well as a base in Djibouti.

President Obama has promised “whatever law enforcement help that is necessary”  including forensics teams and FBI resources to help with the investigation of the mall attack. 

But others, including analyst Anneli Botha, say the West would be better served by exploring the grievances behind local support for extremism.  They say an aggressive military reaction against the extremists could play into the hands of al-Shabab and al-Qaeda – who want to reshape local grievances into a global war between Muslims and Christians. 
 
Listen to analysts' views of al-Shabab attack on mall in Kenya
Listen to analysts' views of al-Shabab attack on mall in Kenyai
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: khadar goray from: somali land
September 28, 2013 3:07 AM
the most and big problem of kenya isssssssss what they called democracy

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid