American soldiers say the enemy always gets a vote. On Sept. 21, al-Shabab, al-Qaida's Somalia branch, voted by staging a militant Islamist terror spectacular, rife with icon targets and domination imagery of the ilk Osama bin Laden exploited.
Emulating tactics Pakistani Islamist terrorists employed in their November 2008 Mumbai, India assault, at least 15 heavily-armed terrorists entered Nairobi's upscale Westgate Mall, and quickly slaughtered several dozen shoppers. The terrorists then seized live hostages, using them as human shields while erecting defensive barricades in tourist clothing boutiques. For four days gunfire and explosions shredded mall promenades and galleries -- three floors eventually collapsed -- as Kenyan security forces counter-attacked.
Store-to-store combat ended Sept. 24, with Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, proclaiming victory. Security officials, however, remain wary. Police have arrested 11 terrorists in and around the mall, but suspect that accomplices remain at large. The terrorists murdered at least 61 civilians, including one of the president's nephews. The death toll may rise. Over 175 people were injured.
Six Kenyan security officers and six terrorists died in the battle, and it was indeed a battle -- another battle in a very long war, which is far from over.
Kenyans know war is not receding. President Kenyatta characterized the war as a continuing struggle. He said Kenya needs help fight terrorism, and he meant the militant Islamist apocalyptic terrorism of al-Shabab, al-Qaida and their global allies.
Walk through Nairobi, East Africa's international hub, and you will encounter people from Africa, India, Arabia, Europe and the Americas. Westgate is an international mall. Perhaps it is a World Trade Center writ small, but for militants it is an icon. When al-Shabab attacked Kampala, Uganda in July 2010, the terrorists bombed sports cafes where soccer fans were watching World Cup matches on TV. Militant Islamists loathe the current world, which is why they wage a global war against it.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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