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Sermonizing With Al Shabab

The Terrorist Group’s New Tactic

A police officer holds a flag hanged by Muslim youths at Masjid Mussa Mosque in the coastal town of Mombasa February 2, 2014. Gunfire erupted in and around a mosque in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Sunday following a raid by armed police who had received a tip-off that Muslim youths were being radicalised and trained for militant attacks.  Joseph Okanga / Reuters

On May 19, members of the Somali terrorist group al Shabab entered Hulugho village in eastern Kenya and herded all the villagers they could find into a mosque. Al Shabab has entered Kenyan towns before, usually in a frenzy of murder and arson, before withdrawing into the bush. Hulugho seemed set to suffer a similar fate.

This time, however, the gunmen merely delivered a two-hour sermon to their captive audience and then left. Three days later, al Shabab fighters occupied the village of Yumbis for eight hours, the group’s spokesman claims. About a month ago, fighters repeated the process in Mangai village, forcing villagers into a mosque for a haranguing before leaving without harming anyone. In Mandera County, the group appears to be routinely occupying and patrolling Warankara village, and then slipping away peacefully.

A Kenyan policeman holds his rifle at Kenya-Somalia border near the town of Mandera December 5, 2014.
A Kenyan policeman holds his rifle at Kenya-Somalia border near the town of Mandera December 5, 2014.  Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
Since Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 to root out al Shabab, the group has sought every opportunity

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