As of this writing, the death toll in the terrorist assault on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, stands at 68. Although Israel will not confirm it, Israeli counterterrorism experts and perhaps even an elite Israeli special forces unit are taking part in efforts to secure the mall.
That Israel is involved is no surprise. The mall is at least partially owned by an Israeli. The assault began next to an Israeli-owned cafe in the mall. Britain’s Guardian newspaper, no friend of Israel’s, reported that an Israeli security guard brought several hostages to safety; others surely must be involved in efforts to end the siege.
Neither Israel nor anyone else is claiming that the attack was at least partially aimed at Israel, but such a conclusion may not be easily discounted, either. We recall the 2002 attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombassa, Kenya, in which 13 people were killed, and the simultaneous and thankfully unsuccessful attempt to bring down an Arkia Boeing 757 as it took off from a Kenyan airport. The same terrorist group involved in this week’s standoff claimed credit in 2002, as well.
This al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab, is known to have recruited all over the world, and initial reports claim that at least two young men from Minnesota are among the terrorists at the mall. Another attacker may have been a Caucasian woman who is wanted for taking part in the London subway bombings of 2005.
We mourn the deaths of all the victims in Kenya. We hope the world does more than pay lip service to the continuing threat from terrorists of all stripes, so that these deaths will not have been totally in vain.