Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the murders of 14 people in an upscale hotel complex in Kenya. One American was killed in the attack, which experts say was designed to attract the attention of western media.
What are the details?
Terrorists stormed the Riverside 14 complex in the capital of Nairobi Tuesday afternoon, detonating at least one suicide bomb and firing their way from a bank into the lobby of the Dusit D2 Hotel, The Wall Street Journal reported. The terrorists claimed the lives of 14 victims during the siege — including American businessman Jason Spindler, who previously survived the 9/11 attack on New York City in 2001.
Kenyan counterterrorism police rushed to fight off the terrorists in a gun battle that lasted at least 16 hours. More than 700 people were evacuated from the complex, but dozens were holed up in hiding for 12 hours or more before special forces were able to provide a safe exit.
According to The Associated Press, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the area was clear on Wednesday, saying, "All terrorists have been eliminated," and assuring residents they could "go back to work without fear."
The Kenyan government was reportedly warned that al-Shabaab was planning attacks around Christmas and the new year, The Guardian reported.
Hussein Sheikh-Ali, a former national security adviser in Somalia, told The Guardian in the aftermath, "A terror attack is ... purely media theater. The number of casualties is not the primary objective. It is to attack a high-profile target, especially where westerners are going to be so the west is interested."
What do the terrorists want?
Al-Shabaab is an al Qaeda affiliate that controls much of Somalia's rural southern and central areas. The group aims to establish an Islamic State to impose strict Shariah law in the region, and is known for carrying out violent attacks in an effort to expand its footprint.
International coalitions have conducted airstrikes against al-Shabaab for years, and the U.S. has stepped up drone attacks on the group under the administration of President Donald Trump. Several media outlets reported that Tuesday's bloodshed in was intended as a signal to western powers that the terrorist organization was still operational.
Ali explained, "This [recent] Nairobi attack is a response first and foremost to the airstrikes. They are sending a message that the U.S. strikes have not degraded them as the U.S. military and some media have claimed. They are saying, 'we are in business.'"