Nairobi Met. Region Cont.
small unit tactics to do so. The first minor success scored by the KDF-led force, which was backed up by foreign military advisors, were the releaseof three hostages on Monday. However, by this time it wasalso becoming clear to the security forces that the assailants were much better prepared, both tactically and logistically,than had been initially thought, meaning that this minor suc-cess was unlikely to translate into a decisive end to the stand-off. Security force suspicions from that time that the attack-ers had in fact pre-placed equipment such as weaponry, am-munition and explosives were ultimately validated; a vehicle was later found in the basement car park that had been therefor more than a month, and used as an armoury for the at-tackers during the siege. As such, by Monday afternoon, the KDF had determined touse stronger tactics to get inside and end the situation. Tostart with, the force lit a generator located to the rear on fire
on Monday afternoon, to divert the assailants’ attention while
attempting to breach at the front of the complex. This is notthought to have succeeded, and this led to much of the de-struction inside the Nakumatt.On Tuesday, with the siege into its fourth day and no defini-tive gains made in penetrating the Nakumatt stronghold, theKenyan military made a fateful decision. After considering and abandoning other options, the army is believed to havedecided to rig and detonate an explosive device which col-lapsed the ceiling and upper floors of the Nakumatt on theattackers, none of whom are thought to have survived. While the government stated, on September 30
, that they believe there were no hostages remaining at the end of thesiege after all, this is impossible to believe and inconsistent with what was understood during the siege, with Red Crossestimates at the time of writing suggesting that 39 people re-main missing. This number may fall, but it is extremely un-likely that it will fall to zero.
Parsing HSM’s Responsibility
That being said, there remains significant opacity regarding even some of the basic details of the incident, including thenumber and fate of the attackers, their national origins, and theprecise group responsible.On the latter subject, while al Shabaab has claimed responsibil-ity, what this means in practice remains unclear. It is likely thatal Qaeda, with whom al Shabaab has rhetorically (and in some ways, operationally) aligned itself, were involved at the manage-ment level, perhaps assisting in training, target selection andoperational protocols such as filtering out Muslims.Similarly, it is likely that the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC), alsoknown as al-Hijra, played some role, either indirect or moreimmediate. On the one hand, it is believed that at least some of the attackers were non-Somali Kenyans, which, if true, wouldstrongly point to MYC involvement in the recruitment stage atthe very least, given their central role in recruitment for al Sha-baab within Kenya. However, it is also probable that the MYC was more directly involved, for example in facilitating weaponry and operatives in Nairobi, and even perhaps at the operationalmanagement level.However, at its core this is understood to have been an al Sha-baab operation, launched in a manner consistent with their es-tablished operational parameters inside Kenya. It is moreoverfaithful to their oft-asserted strategic intent with regard to theKenyan government; since KDF military intervention in Soma-lia in 2011, al Shabaab has consistently stated that it is seeking to strike inside Kenyan territory for the purpose of demonstrat-ing costs to this military mission. And this was precisely themessage communicated via public channels by senior HSM fig-ures as the Westgate incident was ongoing.In this way, the underlying message HSM intended to com-municate with this attack is identical to that of its previous butsmaller kinetic operations in Kenya. All that differed, therefore,in this operation was the scale of its ambition
an ambitionthat, through a high degree of tactical sophistication (even withsimple weaponry), information security, and willingness to tar-get civilians, was powerfully realised.
Absence of Forewarning
Most significantly, the attack seems to have come out of the
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