The State Department updated its worldwide caution to American travelers after the weekend’s grisly assault on a Kenyan mall by Al-Shabaab.
Witnesses have said the terrorists purposely targeted Kenyans and Americans, as well as non-Muslims, and Kenyan authorities have said some of the attackers were American. Investigators from Britain, the United States, Israel, Germany, Canada and Interpol are helping the Kenyan authorities recover bodies, identify the dead and piece together what happened.
The final assault to retake the mall included an Al-Shabaab sniper on the roof keeping police at bay, a suicide bomber whose detonation reportedly collapsed part of the mall, and fears that some of the attacker may have slipped out with panicked shoppers.
The State Department last updated its travel alert at the beginning of August to incorporate new intelligence about a potential looming threat from al-Qaeda.
Yesterday’s updated caution said “the Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas.”
“Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings,” it reads.
“Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays.”
The lengthy alert, broken down by region, mentions that “Libyan security is largely provided by militias that occasionally fight one another, and that have been unable to protect U.S. persons from past attacks, such as the September 2012 attack against the U.S. Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi that led to the deaths of four U.S. citizens, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.”
It also mentions al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab’s February 2012 alliance.
“Al-Shabaab has taken credit for the attack on the shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya on September 21, 2013, which claimed the lives of over 60 people and injured over a hundred more, including U.S. citizens. Al-Shabaab assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage taking, and indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas are also frequent in Somalia.”
The death toll of 72 at the Westgate mall is expected to as much as double as investigators comb through the rubble.