Beyond the Nairobi Massacre
NAIROBI – Kenya heaved a collective sigh of relief when the four-day siege at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall finally ended. Yet the aftermath of the massacre is in many ways turning out to be as dramatic – and grisly – as the event itself.
The sophistication of the plot has stunned investigators. The attackers – members of the Somali Islamist extremist group al-Shabaab – spent weeks reconnoitering the site. They knew every exit and safe haven, and they appear to have leased a shop where they pre-positioned ammunition, explosives, and heavy weaponry. Their use of social media was a case study in digital virtuosity.
The attackers issued a clear demand: Kenya must withdraw the forces that it deployed two years ago as part of an international effort to drive al-Shabaab out of Somalia and return the country to government rule and a semblance of normal life. Their strike, they said, was intended chiefly as a warning to Kenya’s government: change your policy, or else. The attackers also made a great show of telling the world that they had taken special care to safeguard the lives of fellow Muslims during the assault.