September 21, 2013
Today, a shooting occurred at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. It is one of the highest end malls in East Africa and is a very popular shopping destination for foreigners. This is a developing story, but at the time of this writing, there are 39 people dead and at least 150 injured. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on its Twitter page, but the details of exactly how many gunmen or their names have not been determined. The attackers were described as armed with AK-47s and grenades, and their primary target was non muslims. Soldiers and police responded to the scene, and at the time of this writing, there are hostages and two of the gunmen have been killed, according to CNN.
I have been in Nairobi and other upscale malls on both my trips to Kenya and I can personally understand what a national issue for Kenya and international issue this will become. Kenya has a very strong tourist industry and this mall is a symbol of how the country has grown. This is the first major terrorist attack in East Africa since the 1998 bombings of two United States embassies. The mall is fenced and guarded and not everyone is allowed in, but Al Shabab managed to break the security and open fire once inside. It will be interesting following this story to see what further security measures are taken in Nairobi. After 9/11 the Patriot Act was put in place, taking away some freedoms to increase security. While Kenyans don’t have the same freedoms as the United States, it will be intriguing to compare how each nation deals with Al-Queda terrorists attacks. Like in the United States, the Kenyan government will be challenged to find a balance between security and freedom. And while the government may not be violating freedoms by increasing security, they cannot turn Nairobi into a militaristic fortress that deters first world tourists. Indirectly, much of the international community will have a say in how this issue is handled because of the tourist industry and Nairobi’s economic structure, but I do not believe the United States government will be directly involved.