Behind Al Shabab’s Latest Attack

Jihad Comes to Kenya, Again

Kenyan soldiers patrol the area around Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, September 25, 2013. Noor Khamis / Courtesy Reuters

Days after the al Qaeda­–linked jihadist group al Shabab laid siege to an upscale shopping center in northern Nairobi, the political fallout, like the death toll, is still unknown. The attack might have come as a surprise to Western observers, engrossed as they were in Syria and chemical weapons, but it should not have.

Al Shabab has long threatened to strike within Kenya, and this is not the first time that it has shown itself capable of walking the walk. As I wrote in January, Kenya has suffered a wave of attacks in recent years, as have other countries in the region. In 2010, for example, an al Shabab bombing spree against groups of people watching the World Cup in Kampala, Uganda killed more than 70. The assailants’ tactics this time were not new, either: For a long time, al Shabab fighters have tended to prefer using grenades and AK-47s

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