Al Shabab Poses A Threat On Several Fronts

A Resurgent Al Shabab
The Kenyan university attack in which 147 people were killed demonstrated the lethality of a resurgent Al Shabab and its ability to inflict death on a large scale with only a few individuals.

As Charles Onyango-Obbo notes in today’s New York Times, they killed their victims with “a particularly callous touch” by instructing the students to first to call their parents on their cellphones to inform them the motive of the attack was revenge for Kenya’s role in military counterterror efforts in Somalia.

He continues by arguing that the group’s reemergence has the potential to disrupt the delicate balance Kenya is attempting to maintain between various religions.

“In this respect, the Shabab is different from Nigeria’s Boko Haram and the Islamic State, which will kill Muslims they consider not to be true believers. In a Kenya that is still struggling to heal ethnic and regional divisions, inserting a new Muslim-versus-Christian dynamic could throw an accelerant on the flames of conflict,” he contends.

In a written statement, Shabab asserted that it is “a well known fact that the Kenyan government has perpetrated unspeakable atrocities” against the Muslims of East Africa. The statement went on to describe the details of the attack, including the fact that all Muslims were “allowed to safely evacuate the premises before executing the disbelievers. The Muslim blood is inviolable whereas the blood of a Kafir [disbeliever] has no protection except by Eeman [belief] or Aman [covenant of security].”

Rather than focusing on Shabab in a vacuum, J.M. Berger of the Brookings Institution believes they should be viewed as a potential avenue for radicals if ISIS should be defeated.

“And as Garissa shows, killing civilians requires far fewer people than taking and governing territory. It only takes a handful of fighters to create a tragedy of massive proportions. Even a small insurgency, transformed, makes for a huge terrorist capability.

“In light of this, it is critically important that we start thinking now about the fall of ISIS, which commands far more fighters than al Shabab and has encouraged those fighters to even wilder excesses of violence under a more explicitly apocalyptic worldview,” he argues.

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