Shabaab Releases Video on Westgate Mall Raid, Names Western Malls as Targets for Lone Wolf Attacks
The Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement, al-Qaeda's branch in Somalia, released a documentary-style video on the September 2013 raid at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and threatened that "Westgate was just the beginning, and with all hopes of peace forever dashed, Kenya's darkest hour is yet to come."
The 66 minute, 44 second-video, entitled, "The Westgate Siege - Retributive Justice," was distributed on Twitter on February 21, 2015 in two versions: one in Arabic and another in English. Justifying the attack, the video discussed the "Kenyan invasion" to Somalia in October 2011, leading to the Westgate attack.
"This video by the Shabaab resembles older releases by the group, such as 'Woolwich attack: It's an eye for an eye', wherein the group commented on jihadist Michael Adebolajo's killing of British Solider Lee Rigby," said SITE Director Rita Katz.
The video also showed previously released footage of the three-day siege taken from security cameras footage, while being narrated by un-identified English speaker.
"The English-speaking narrator in this video sounds remarkably similar to the narrator from past Shabaab releases, including the 'Eye for an Eye' video, as well as another regarding the group's June 2013 suicide attack on the U.N. Common Compound in Mogadishu."
The narrator also discussed Kenya's history as it relates to Muslims, focusing on alleged massacres and instances of torture, and then as it related to Somalia, with Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) fighting the Shabaab in the south. The video portrayed Kenya as a target for attacks for some time, and featured Salman al-Muhajir, one of the fighters involved in the July 2010 suicide attack in Kampala, Uganda, appearing in a posthumous clip and stating:
Don't be deceived; the fact that we would reach Burundi or Uganda doesn't mean that we have forgotten about Nairobi. Passing through Nairobi on our way to Burundi or Uganda (without carrying out an operation in Nairobi) doesn't mean that we have forgotten you, rather be forewarned of an imminent operation in the making!
In one segment in the video, Shabaab spokesman Ali Mahmoud Ragi (AKA Ali Dheere) warned:
The war has not really started yet, and between us is a long account still to be settled. Westgate is just a drop in the ocean compared to what you have inflicted upon our Muslim brothers in Mombasa, Garissa, and Jilib. The attacks and raids will continue and, by the will of Allah, they will not stop until you change your oppressive practices against our brothers and restore their rights in full. What awaits you is far more grievous and more bitter by the permission of Allah.
"Despite the video's length and editing technique, it does not hold up to Islamic State's quality of video productions, as is the case with other AQ releases as well." said Katz.
At the end of the video, a masked fighter called for lone-wolf attacks in the West mirroring those of Westgate, and even named specific targets in the US, Canada, and England:
And finally, we call upon our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the West, to answer the call of Allah, and target the disbelievers wherever they are. If just a handful of mujahideen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete stand-still for nearly a week, just imagine what the dedicated mujahideen could do in the West to American or Jewish shopping centers across the world. What if such an attack were to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota? Or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada? Or in London's Oxford Street?
The video also showed, for the first time, a picture of the group's former leader, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubeir (AKA Ahmed Abdi Godane), who was killed in September 2014 by a US airstrike:
"Calls for lone wolf attacks have been heard by AQ and its affiliates for many years," said Katz. "This call for attacks on malls shows the group's desire not only for such attacks, but also to continue touting their September 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall."
Katz continued, "Given al-Qaeda's competition with the Islamic State, it likely that the Shabaab—an al-Qaeda affiliate—is attempting to remain relevant within the global discussion on terrorism, especially amid the persistent coverage of the Islamic State in the media."