Al-Shabab Defends Nairobi Westgate Attack

Al-Shabab – the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali Islamist rebel group – has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

A woman is carried to safety on Saturday after masked gunmen stormed a mall and shot at shoppers and staff in Nairobi, Kenya. Simon Maina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A woman is carried to safety on Saturday after masked gunmen stormed a mall and shot at shoppers and staff in Nairobi, Kenya. Simon Maina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The attack launched on Saturday on the upscale Westgate shopping mall has killed at least 68 people and wounded more than 150 others. Heavy gunfire continued to ring out early Monday.

International news site, Al Jazeera’s Hamza Mohamed interviewed al-Shabab’s spokesman for military operations, Sheikh Abulaziz Abu Muscab, as the siege at the mall entered it’s third day. Abulaziz spoke about why the group attacked Nairobi now. He also provided insight into al-Shabab’s relations with the Mombasa Republican Council, a group the Kenyan government designated as a terrorist organisation.

Al Jazeera: It is more than two years since Kenyan troops went into Somalia to fight al-Shabab. Why did al-Shabab attack Nairobi now?

Sheikh Abulaziz Abu Muscab: We have been late in attacking Nairobi. We did not attack before because they were expecting us to attack. Our aim is to attack our enemy when they least expect us to attack. This time they were not expecting us to attack. We choose when to attack, and best time to attack.

AJ: Is this al-Shabab’s first attack in Nairobi?

SA: Thats not the importing thing. The important thing is it is us who attacked now. It is not important to say we attacked before or not.

AJ: This attack is happening at Westgate Mall, which, when the attack started, was full of shoppers. Why is al-Shabab attacking a place that is full of civilians?

SA: The place we attacked is Westgate shopping mall. It is a place where tourists from across the world come to shop, where diplomats gather. It is a place where Kenya’s decision-makers go to relax and enjoy themselves. Westgate is a place where there are Jewish and American shops. So we have to attack them.

On civilian deaths, Kenya should first be asked why they bombed innocent Somali civilians in refugee camps, why they bombed innocent people in Gedo and Jubba regions. They should be asked that first before us.

AJ: Al-Shabab claims to work to protect Muslims and Somalis in particular. Some of the people killed in this attack suggests otherwise.

SA: History supports our claim. We are the only ones protecting Somalis and Somalia. We are the only group fighting Somalia’s historic enemies. We are the only one who can say “no” to Somalis’ enemies.

On the loss of lives, there were Kenyan soldiers firing back at our fighters. There was an exchange of gunfire. There is no evidence it was our bullets that killed them.

Shoppers flee Nairobi’s Westgate Mall [Reuters]

We released all Muslims when we took control of the mall. Witnesses have backed us on this.

AJ: Do you think this attack will make Kenya withdraw its troops from Somalia?

SA: That question is not for us to answer. That is for the Kenyan government to answer. It is up to them to withdraw their soldiers or not. If they don’t withdraw, attacks like this will become common in Kenya. It is possible if they don’t withdraw attacks like this will happen in Kenyan cities and towns every day.

AJ: Before Kenyan troops went into Somalia in October 2011, what was al-Shabab’s relation with the Kenyan government?

SA: We always knew Kenya is the enemy of the Somali people. We knew this when we controlled the border towns. Kenya invading us was not unexpected. We don’t believe them and we dont trust them.

AJ: Kenya says it will go after the perpetrators of this attack and won’t stop until they are defeated. What do you say to that?

SA: We are not perpetrators. We are only defending ourselves and defending our rights, the rights of the Somali people.

Today no one has a worse criminal record than the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He’s talking about tens of people killed at Westgate while he’s responsible for the deaths of thousands of people killed when he was running for the presidency. If Kenyans want to hold someone accountable for crimes they should first start with him.

AJ: Many, including the Somali and Kenyan governments, are saying al-Shabab targeting a place full of civilians is a sign of weakness, that al-Shabab is on the back foot and will soon be history. Is that the case?

SA: Whom are these people judging us? These people’s weakness is public for everyone to see. The Somali government is protected by tanks for them to stay in power. The Kenyans rely on foreign support, even to deal with a small matter like Westgate. They asked for Western support.

AJ: Finally, Kenya has designated the Mombasa Republican Council (MYC) as a terrorist organisation. The group has on many occasions endorsed al-Shabab. What is al-Shabab’s relationship with MYC?

SA: The relations between MYC and us are the same relations between Muslims. They are our Muslim brothers. Islam is our common relation, and they have the same right from us like any other Muslim

Al Jazeera

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8 thoughts on “Al-Shabab Defends Nairobi Westgate Attack

  1. These guys have a point, infact for the first time I might be on there side. Let Somalia solve its problems alone as other countries do. Relying on foreign support only is not always good. However, these guys did a very bad thing of may be killing the civilians. This is not the right way of revenging.

    1. Wait untill they kill your whole family dats wen you will support them very well@Emmanuel,you are a disgrace to ur name and da people who woke up one morning and gave it to you.You deserve to be called Ssebavuma Al-Shabab.

      1. No, i also agree with him! I lost 4 mates in the 2010 attacks in Kampala when we were watchin world cup finals. The same reasons for the attack! I think it’s high time Uganda & Kenya take there troops out of Somalia. Americans love wars they should go n fight that one not us poor small countries we are losing more people cos of some country n we all don’t know how it started. I also accept there word Ug & Kenya must withdraw in that war it’s non of our business!!! These gov’t of ours aren’t helping anything at all but our people & friends are dying for no reason. Somalians are right we must leave them alone we’re fed up!

  2. Bin Laden killed many people he didn’t know one day he will be thrown into the sea….even Al Shabab will come to the end

    1. Let’s cut long story short, Uganda & Kenya need to withdraw from that war! I was at Kyadondo Rugby club n i witnessed my friends die for nothing. Shaba is right we should leave them alone! I wonder why they still keep troops in that country let America who love wars fight this one we’re a poor country n can’t afford to lose innocent people cos our go’t doesn’t care even if we lose our loved one’s…

      1. its too late to withdraw…even if they do it….those heartless Muslims wont stop until they see our nations destroyed..but they wont manage “For God and my country” we are covered with the blood of Jesus

  3. If really the spokesperson had a chance to say they attacked West gate, why wasn’t he interrogated by the nation to find out the real attackers, probably be taken to court as well for the death of the innocent minds-how could he be given chance to express frankly and freely?

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