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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Islamist Terrorists Brutally Attack Shopping Mall in Kenya
Targeting of Christians and Non-Muslims
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) expresses grave concern over the horrific terrorist attack that took place at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, over the weekend. On Monday afternoon, local time, Kenyan forces again raided the mall, killing two additional members of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group. They reclaimed control of the shopping center, moving closer to an end of the hostage situation that began on Saturday and claimed the lives of at least 69 people. This is the latest in Al-Shabaab's campaign of terror, motivated by Islamic extremism, targeting Christians and non-Muslims across East Africa.
The nightmare scenario started Saturday, about 12:00 p.m. local time. The terrorists entered the Westgate Shopping Mall in the Kenyan capital, indiscriminately firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades. They then began targeting Christians and non-Muslims. According to the BBC, witness reported the terrorists "told Muslims to leave and said non-Muslims would be targeted." The Independent reports, "Some non-Muslims who attempted to talk their way past the fighters armed with grenades and AK-47s were asked to identify the mother of the Prophet. Those who could not were shot on the spot." Targeting of Christians by Al-Shabaab is even more direct as they had been criticized by Osama bin Laden for their indiscriminate killing of Muslims. Bin Laden warned that the group was killing too many Muslims in their attacks, Peter Bergen reported for CNN.
The death toll from the attack continues to rise as Kenyan security forces regain control of the scene. The Westgate Mall is a prominent hangout for tourists and upscale Kenyans. Victims of the deadly attack include nationals from at least 11 different countries, including England, Canada, France, China, and India, as well as dozens of Kenyans, including a nephew of Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta. Some 200 people were wounded in the attacks, including five Americans, according to CNN. The attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall is the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy by Al-Qaeda, which killed 213 people.
The Al-Shabaab terrorist group, which claimed responsibility for the attack, is a Somalia-based terrorist network operating throughout much of East Africa. As ICC previously reported, Al-Shabaab is ruthless in their killing of Christians. Designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization since 2008, Al-Shabaab is seeking to turn Somalia into an Islamic state. The group has been implicated in attacks across Africa, including Somalia, Kenya, and a July 2010 suicide bombing in Uganda. While the government and some religious leaders have denounced the group, the economic poverty and absence of rule of law have allowed the group to grow in influence. Al-Shabaab, which has known ties to Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist terrorist groups, boasts of its large number of foreign recruits among its ranks. Though unconfirmed, there are reports of involvement by individuals recruited from the United States and England in the Westgate attack.
Kenyan military forces have taken a leading role in international peace-keeping efforts in Somalia targeted at rooting out Al-Shabaab. Kenya's role in the intervention has resulted in previous retaliation attacks, as documented in a 2012 ICC special report. As ICC documented earlier this year, Al-Shabaab has a significant presence in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, a few miles from the Westgate mall, where they have carried out church bombings and the murder of Christians.
Formed in 2006 as a break-off from a now defunct group, Al-Shabaab, which means "The Youth" in Arabic, "has imposed a strict version of Sharia law in areas under its control, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of thieves," according to the BBC. Attacks like this are part of their tactics to inflict massive casualties on civilians and to specifically target Christians.
Jeff King, President of ICC and author of Islam Uncensored, said, "A brutal attack on a shopping mall inflicting massive casualties on civilians, and specifically targeting Christians, is part of the standard operating procedure for militant Islamic groups like Al-Shabaab. To hear stories of forced conversion and point-blank assassinations is heart-breaking, but unsurprising for this group. This is part of their stated agenda to impose radical Islamic law and to purge their land of Christians."
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