Al-Shabab, a Somalia based radical Muslim terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. CBS is reporting 71 victims but the death toll is expected to increase as the rubble is cleared. The attacks were specifically targeted at non-Muslims – in the words of al-Shabab they “carried out a meticulous vetting process” to not harm Muslims. The “vetting” included asking people to recite passages from the Quran or other key elements of their faith – unable to do so meant death or severe injury to the non-Muslim victims.
Al-Shabab (means ‘the youth’) was designated as a terrorist organization by the US in 2008 but has been around since the mid 2000’s. They are estimated to have between 7 and 9,000 fighters and foreign jihadist. The group merged with al-Qaeda in February 2012 and has been known to recruit widely in the United States. The merger with al-Qaeda has offered al-Shabab it’s training facilities, tactical strategy and communication expertise. CBS also reported that they have recruited two-dozen Somali-Americans from the Minneapolis area over the past few years. They actively recruit in Somali neighborhoods throughout the US.
One of the recruits from America worked his way through the ranks of al-Shabab leadership and was apparently killed when he defied al-Shabab. He attained the highest position ever for an American – his nationality became his nickname: ‘the American’. His name was Omar Shafik Hammami who was born in Daphne, Alabama. He was president of his sophomore class at Daphne Hugh School and as a child was raised a Baptist but practiced his father’s Muslim culture at home. Hammami converted to Islam, left high school early to attend college at the University of South Alabama where he served as president of the Muslim Student’s Association.
A report from Kenya’s foreign minister, Amina Mohamed, indicated that the initial reports are that there were two young Americans (between 18 and 19) of Somali or Arab origin that lived somewhere in the US who participated in the mall attack.
Here’s my concern – it’s a rather short leap from al-Shabab/al-Qaeda recruiting radicals from the US to go back to their native Somolia to join the fight for global caliphate – to recruiting these same radicals to strap bombs on and attack our shopping malls in middle America. Vetting won’t be as tedious as Muslims will be a small minority of the shoppers. They conducted a precise attack in Nairobi. They rented a kiosk weeks before the attack and learned the details of traffic flow and mall layout – it was well orchestrated, planned and executed. I hope not, but was this a dry run to future attacks on our homeland?
Learn more about how the radical Islamic mind thinks in Deadly Beliefs – download the first three chapters here.