From Somalia to Kenya mall massacre, Al Qaida on the move

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CAIRO — Al Qaida has expanded from Somalia to neighboring Kenya.

The Al Qaida-aligned Al Shabab has claimed responsibility for an attack
on a shopping mall in Kenya in which 85 people, including two foreign
diplomats, were killed. Al Shabab said its fighters took hundreds of
hostages in Nairobi on Sept. 21.

A Kenyan security officer takes cover amid a terrorist attack at Nairobi's Westgate Mall.
A Kenyan security officer takes cover amid a terrorist attack at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.

“Ten hours have passed and the holy warriors are still strong inside Westgate Mall and still holding their ground,” Al Shabab said.

This marked the fourth time Shabab claimed attacks in Kenya. In 2012, Shabab, targeting a police station and bus station, claimed responsibility for two attacks in three months.

Western diplomats said the latest Shabab attack was the most sophisticated. They said more than a dozen Islamist fighters attacked the Nairobi mall with semi-automatic machine guns and grenades.

Israel is said to have sent a hostage rescue team to Nairobi. Several Israelis were said to have survived the attack.

“The Israelis are all relaxed, according to my understanding,” Israeli
deputy ambassador Yaakov Lopez said. “I do not see any degree of panic.”

On Sept. 23, fighting continued in the Nairobi mall. On Sept. 22, Shabab issued a
statement that warned it would kill all the hostages.

“Israelis and Kenyan forces have tried to enter Westgate by force, but
they could not,” Shabab spokesman Ali Rage said. “The holy warriors will
kill the hostages if the enemies use force.”

Shabab was believed to contain a significant American presence. Congress
has warned that some of the American fighters in Shabab could return to
attack the United States.

“They could use their abilities on the U.S.,” House Homeland Security
Committee chairman Rep. Peter King said.

King, who receives briefings by the U.S. intelligence community, said up
to 20 Americans were active in Shabab. He said Somali communities in the
United States were recruiting grounds for Shabab, and up to 50 Americans
joined the Islamist movement.

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