Despite Reforms Across the Horn of Africa, al-Shabab Continues a Deadly Campaign

Despite Reforms Across the Horn of Africa, al-Shabab Continues a Deadly Campaign
Security forces help civilians flee the scene of the attack at the 14 Riverside hotel-office complex in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

NAIROBI, Kenya—Last week, a five-man cell from al-Shabab, al-Qaida’s Somalia-based affiliate, entered the popular 14 Riverside hotel-office complex in an affluent neighborhood of Kenya’s capital, where there were more than 700 workers and hotel guests. One of the men blew himself up with a suicide vest, while the four others threw hand grenades and fired on people having a late lunch and then trying to flee.

Al-Shabab has wreaked havoc in East Africa since 2006, proving to be one of the world’s deadliest jihadist groups. Its latest attack in Nairobi was an appalling reminder that, despite historic reforms and rapprochement between old foes in the Horn of Africa, terrorism remains a major threat for Kenya and the region.

Amid the chaos in Nairobi last week, the response from Kenya’s security forces, which have been credited with improved counterterrorism capabilities, kept the death toll relatively low at 21, plus the five attackers who were killed. Among the dead were 33-year-old Abdalla Dahir and 31-year-old Feisal Ahmed, both Somali-Kenyans employed by the Somalia Stability Fund, which has worked to help Somalia recover from decades of civil and state collapse that have pushed it to the bottom of most development indicators. An American citizen, Jason Spindler, 41, was also among the victims; he was working on Wall Street as an investment analyst on 9/11 and had survived the attack on the World Trade Center.

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