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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Al-Shabab Makes A Statement.

Link: Al-Shabab Attacks University in Eastern Kenya.

On Thursday of last week, Somalian-based terror group Al-Shabab orchestrated an attack against unarmed, innocent students and teachers at Garissa University (College) in Garissa, Kenya.  To date, authorities state that 148 persons died in the attack, along with many if not all of the gunmen.  Since the attack included the taking of hostages (with Muslims and non-Muslims being separated), and some students are still listed as missing, Kenyan officials are hesitant to provide an exact number of gunmen.  I have received a bit of flack from visitors to my blog, because of the amount of attention I give to Africa.  I don't deny that I'm an Africaphile, but my focus on the continent as far as the blog is concerned, is solely related to the issue of terrorism.  To be more precise, I am concerned about the spread of the Islamic extremist message, and also the potential for recruitment of operatives.  It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to recognize that young men who have no jobs and very little hope for the future, are prime candidates for recruitment by these groups.  And young men looking for work is something that Africa, unfortunately, has way too many of.

The blog has addressed the increased presence of Al-Shabab in Kenya in numerous postings during the previous three months.  The International Media noted that Al-Shabab had taken a huge hit in their home country of Somalia, and an attitude seemed to creep in that maybe, just maybe, Al-Shabab was finished.  You can separate terrorist groups into countless sub-categories, but for the sake of this post, lets point out that there are two types of terror organizations: the ones who fight solely for the cause; and the ones that use their actions to also make a living.  Al-Shabab was never going to disappear, because they fit into the second category.  Too many members of Al-Shabab had found a way to feed themselves and their families, at a time and place where food is scarce.  Besides, Al-Shabab has too many operatives and too much equipment and too many friends to no longer be considered useful by Al-Qaeda.  Hence to move away from Somalia and into Kenya.  Analysts have been expecting a minor explosion in terrorist activity in Kenya for some time, probably because of its proximity to Somalia combined with the permanent state of economic stagnation.  I have been more concerned with the probability of recruitment in the vast townships outside Nairobi.  Whatever the vehicle, it is imperative that the Kenyan authorities realize that Al-Shabab is in the midst of relocating from Somalia to Kenya.

Many folks in Europe and the United States will automatically assume that by attacking shopping malls and college campuses, Al-Shabab is crippling its image among all the people of Kenya.  Unfortunately, that's not the case.  Forgive me if my comment appears to be ethnocentric (I don't believe it is), but sub-Saharan Africans don't automatically adopt the same perspective as westerners.  In many cases, they approach issues very differently.  By conducting the operation in Garissa, Al-Shabab was providing an example of its strength and power.  Likewise for the attack at the shopping center in Nairobi.  Where was the government?  Where were the police and the military?  Authorities in Nigeria have had a real problem dealing with the same predicament.  Some northerners (Muslims, to be sure) were beginning to support Boko Haram, because they certainly were looking like a winner.  Al-Shabab can provide a hungry, disillusioned young man with three essential things: food, a weapon, and a cause.

An important factor that should never be far from any discussion of Al-Shabab, is Al-Qaeda.  Just how close are these two groups?  I guarantee you that the analysts in Langley know.  If we take a quick look at Al-Qaeda's modus operandi regarding relations with other organizations, it would appear to be always be a one-sided relationship.  I think we will soon discover, though, that the "new" Al-Qaeda, under Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a bit more willing to be interactive with like-minded groups.  In the last few years of Osama bin-Ladin's life, the organization became very isolated and secretive, and for good reason.  I believe that Zawahiri believes in the philosophy of the struggle, just as much as he does the actions being taken.  I think we will see more instances of Al-Qaeda communicating with the Boko Harams and the Al-Shababs, and trying to lay the groundwork for a uniting message.  I believe a great deal has already been accomplished along this path, and the various groups on the ground in Syria are not nearly as separate from each other as they would lead the western media to believe.  Nothing lives forever.  Even Al-Qaeda will eventually disappear.  The key is the message.  It must resonate and be strong enough to live forever.  The message can survive long journeys across mountain ranges and oceans, when men cannot.  The message can survive the battles when all the combatants lie dead on the field.  Zawahiri and Al-Qaeda will depend upon the Boko Harams, and the Al-Qaeda in Magrebs, and the Al-Shababs, to be the caretaker and delivery system for that message.  And the message never changes.  it continues to be about domination, intolerance, hatred and bigotry.  It would behoove us to take down the caretakers before they really get a handle on the message.

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