BY JOSEF LUFTMAN
On Saturday, Sept. 21, a shooting left 62 people dead and 150 injured at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, according to a report by The New York Times. Al Shabaab, an Islamic militant group based in Somalia, claimed responsibility and cited revenge on Kenya for its occupation and fighting in Somalia in 2011 as the reason for the attack.
Shoppers cried out for help and hid under tables and behind mannequins. Parents threw their bodies on top of their children as the terrorists rampaged through the mall, shooting people in the head. According to the report, hours later, police officers and soldiers rushed into the mall past the bloody corpses, in an effort to find any survivors and capture the assailants.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, Al Shabaab bragged on Twitter that their fighters were “still holding their ground.”
Just after midnight on Monday, the siege finally ended with all the hostages freed and more than 10 suspects arrested for questioning. Three of the attackers were killed.
Two days later, forensic investigators from Kenya and the U.S. began an extensive examination of the rubble.
Toqeer Awan, a practicing Pakistani Muslim and biology major at County College of Morris, has special knowledge and strong opinions on Islamic extremism.
“The militants attacking the Kenyan mall, they’re reported to be from many different [countries], not just Somalia. So their real motivations are hard to depict,” Awan said. “But one thing is certain. They want retaliation from Kenya so they can get the support from their local Somalians, which they’re not getting recently at all.”
Jack Bernardo, a political science professor at CCM stated in an email why these attacks occur.
“The attack clearly illustrates how a failed state (i.e. Somalia) becomes a breeding ground for terrorist groups, (like) Syria, and that while Al Qaeda has been seriously weakened, it spawned several new groups that must be contained and defeated,” Bernardo said.
He added that it illustrates how “disparities of wealth and condition lead to very strong resentment and can lead to violence.”
Countries like Kenya are not well prepared for attacks involving terrorism due in part to lack of funding and infrastructure. The lack of preparedness and quick response can lead to more aggression.
“On the 26th of September, another attack happened on the border where the terrorists killed three more people,” Awan said. “This is five [or] six days after their original attack of the mall… their security forces should do more.”