The Assault on Westgate Mall
Loud explosions were heard, followed by billowing smoke, but it appears to be originating from behind the mall, in one of the lower annexes. Presumably the final assault, or something near to it, has begun.
Nothing is certain yet beyond the confusion among civilians and reports emerging from the scene. Some details are emerging about the original assault. The National Post describes how the Shabaabs repelled the first respondents.
Only when the troops forced their way through did they realize that dead bodies, as many as 20, had been piled against the entryway to slow the soldiers’ access.
Stumbling inside, they immediately came under sniper fire from high up on the second floor balcony above them. Two died. The rest were forced to pull back.
This was the moment, relayed to The Daily Telegraph by security staff and community workers helping the troops, that the professionalism and ferocity of those holding the shopping mall hostages began to become clear.
Lovely touch that. Killing civilians and using them as doorstops. That little vignette describes the earnestness of war, the dead seriousness of it; the kind of all-encompassing condition that it is. To the Shabaabs, people -- someone's wife, child or husband -- were just so many sandbags to be used in a tactical situation. Their attitude exemplifies the total commitment, the mental difference between a man at peace and stone killers at war -- with us.
Yes with us and make no mistake about it.
It takes a while for normal people to shift into that mental gear; to leave the familiar world and enter a jungle where the laws of civilization no longer operate and only the laws of physics obtain. Of course, those who live by the Narrative -- you know, where you read today's cheap Talking Points on the computer over Fair Trade coffee -- take the longest to understand this. Don't make this mistake if you're faced with the enemy. In a situation like the Nairobi Mall, when face to face with the Shabaabs, there's no room for the slightest pity or hesitation. Not if you want to live.
The Guardian reports that the Kenyans are clearing the area, fearful the Shabaabs have confederates who have mingled with the crowd and plan to attack the perimeter from the outside.
Responding to rumours that other al-Shabaab units maybe joining and hiding themselves amongst the crowds, Kenyan security services have tried to clear onlookers and members of the public from around the mall, he says. In doing this, they have fired tear gas creating even more scenes of chaos.
Reports are now 2 Shabaab KIA and 10 Kenyans WIA. There are now reports that the operation is over; the Kenyans have taken all floors. And all the Shabaabs are reportedly male, an ascertainment which implies the remaining Shabaabs are either captured, wounded or dead. The Kenyans however, have been less than consistent in their information releases. I'll take that with a sack of salt.
While the drama unfolds, the NYT writes that contrary to what you may think, "the ferocious armed political movement known as the Shabab is on the ropes in Somalia, losing territory and influence in its home country." It's in its last gap. Yet before the Shabaabs fade into the sunset "the group is using those resources to punish Kenya on its own soil, mostly for its role within Somalia, but also, to some degree, because of growing American support for the Kenyan security forces," like some kind of Parthian shot.
It is punishing Kenya for consorting with Americans. For keeping bad company. It figures. You should know by now that its always America's fault. Whatever the circumstance, however tenuous the connection, however tortured the linkage, it's always America's fault.
But at least the NYT article is more entertaining than the absolutely banal statement by Secretary of State John Kerry who writes "today's terrorist massacre of so many innocents is a heartbreaking reminder that there exists unspeakable evil in our world which can destroy life in a senseless instant." Heartbreaking? What is this, Love Story?
It's as if the mayhem being perpetrated in many parts of the world were the result of some kind of bad character or mental illness; the consequence of unthinking folly rather than what it is: a purposeful campaign of war direct against specific targets for definite purposes.
It's a campaign of conquest, whatever else Kerry wants to characterize it as.
The al-Shabaab aren't crazy -- not in the dysfunctional sense -- they're just on the other side. By their own lights they are perfectly rational. It is bureaucrats like Kerry who are irrational in describing what is an overt act of belligerence as if it were a kind of delinquency.
Back to the mall operations, there's been another audible exchange. One observer thinks he heard several hundred rounds fired. This underscores the wasting nature of al-Shabaab's position. However careful they are, they only have so much ammunition, and less and less with each shot. Sooner or later the crisis will come as the Kenyans advance. Persistent reports now of sustained fire. It appears that the end is near.
Reports of another blast. No way to tell who set it off. And now another stretch of quiet. And now gunfire again, but the Shabaab's perimeter must be shrinking.
It's getting pretty late here in Oz, I'll check out the situation later.
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