Somali al-Shabaab continues attacks on Kenya and announces threat to shopping malls in the West

The Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin in Somalia—commonly known as al-Shabaab, the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts, continues its attacks on Kenya, whose military continues its campaigns in Somalia against the movement  as part of the African Union AMISOM operations with soldiers from Burundi and Uganda.  Now, having brought their attacks to Kenya and the Westgate Shopping Mall in September 2013, al-Shabaab is mounting new attacks in Kenya in 2014-15.

More than 21,000 African Union (AMISOM) troops from Kenya, Burundi, and Uganda are are operating in Somalia in cooperation with the CIA and the U.S. AFRICOM Special Forces. While AMIKSOM is alleged to have pushed al-Shabaab out of the capital Mogadishu, al-Shabaab continues sporadic attacks there, killing several with a car bomb at the Somali Parliament in July 2014 and killing 11 and injuring the deputy prime minister in a  suicide bombing attack on February 20, 2015al-Shabaab still controls some parts of Somalia while continuing  its retaliation campaign in both Kenya and Uganda for their military participation in the African Union AMISOM mobilization.

Now, a new al-Shabaab video calls for attacks on shopping malls in the United States, U.K., France, and Canada, presumably seeking to mobilize so-called “lone wolf” terrorists.  Government spokespersons in the four countries have downplayed any danger of immediate attacks but are calling on shoppers in the malls to “remain vigilant.”

With circa 30,000 immigrant and second generation Somalis in Minneapolis-St.Paul and allegedly more than 20 young persons having left Minneapolis to join al-Shabaab, some of the popular press is sounding the alarm for special dangers in that city for the Mall of America, e.g. “Somali Migrants in Minnesota are a Terror Threat to the Mall of America.” The mall with 400 stores and employing circa. 12,000 people has more visitors (ca. 40 million annually) than any other mall.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a native of Minneapolis and the first Muslim elected to Congress, is a fan of the new Minnesota Somali organization Ka Joog (Somali for “stay away”—from radicalization, drugs, violence, gangs and other negative influences in the U.S.), an outreach effort mounted by Minneapolis Somalis. “Once they get to America,” Ellison argued, “Somalis face many of the same issues that non-Somalis face.”

“They are subject to everything else that low-income kids of color are subject to,” Ellison told Al Jazeera’s America Tonight. “But they have one more problem: They have Muslim names, and maybe their language skills are not that strong. So, they are vulnerable…to gang and criminal activity but also people saying, ‘Look, if you are going to be poor and black, why don’t you do it in a warmer climate where you speak the language?’”

And like it or not, the issue strikes a chord for some young Somali-Americans. “As we are trying to make a world for these kids to thrive in,” Ellison said, “they are dealing with cutting food stamps.”

Read more on Al Jazeera’s Flagship Blog on “Somali in America: Fighting stereotypes, and terrorist recruitment” .

Further Reading:

1) AfricaFocus: Focus on Somalia (Multiple articles, book recommendations, and other info sources)

2) From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Somalis in Minnesota: Still misunderstood: This is partly due to media coverage, which zeroes in on conflict and perceived risk, leaving good stories untold

New Somali refugee arrivals in Minnesota are increasing: After a dip in 2008, a second wave of Somali refugees is arriving in the state. But with fewer family ties, this group faces a new set of challenges.

Other resources:

Macalester College: Somali – Refugee & Immigrant Populations in Minneapolis

NPR: For Somalis In Minneapolis, Jihadi Recruiting Is A Recurring Nightmare


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