On February 20, 2015, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali group Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen released a video detailing the September 2013 deadly attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The video, titled “The Westgate Siege – Retributive Justice,” recalls the Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia, and notes the crimes committed by the KDF there. It also details Kenyan authorities’ oppression and targeting of Muslims in Kenya, including young men and religious figures. The video details the Westgate mall attack, while mocking Kenyan government and security forces’ failure to predict it or, once it occurred, to contain it. The video does not reveal the identities, numbers, and background of the attackers, but it hints that they were only a small group. The video warns that attacks against Kenya will continue, and also urges Muslims in the West to attack the unbelievers, and to carry out attacks, for example, against American- and Jewish-owned shopping centers across the world.
The video includes messages from current and former Al-Shabab figures, including Al-Shabab’s slain leader Mukhtar Abu Al-Zubair (who is photographed from behind), Al-Shabab official spokesman ‘Ali Rage, and slain Al-Shabab commander Saleh Al-Nabhani (who was killed in September 2009). The video is narrator by a masked Al-Shabab English speaker whose eyes are digitally blurred. The video also includes previously released messages from a number of Al-Qaeda figures including Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and Anwar Al-‘Awlaki.
Mukhtar Abu Al-Zubair
The video, which is 1:17:07 in duration, was released on the Al-Fida’ forum, in both English and Arabic versions.
Following are the video’s main points:
The first part, which takes up the lion’s share of the video, is focused on Kenya, namely the crimes it committed throughout history against Somalis and Kenyan Muslims. In that regard, the video details Kenya’s military offensive against southern Somalia, while noting the crimes committed by KDF soldiers there. The video also notes Kenya’s oppressive policies against Kenyan Muslims, who, it says, were being targeted and killed. It notes, for instance, the case of prominent Kenyan cleric Aboud Rogo, who was gunned down outside a police station in September 2012.
The second part of the video details the Westgate attack, including Al-Shabab’s preceding threats to Kenya, threats which Al-Shabab says fell on deaf ears. Thus, “Westgate was perhaps the only natural response to the blatant Kenyan aggression.”
Moving on to the target itself, the narrator notes the location of the Westgate mall, while noting that it was an Israeli-owned structure that was frequented by foreigners and diplomats from nearby embassies.
The narrator says that the attack took “months of meticulous planning and painstaking preparations.”
The siege of the mall itself, according to the video, lasted six days. This stands in contrast to the Kenyan government’s claims that it regained control of the mall after four days. In that regard, the video makes repeated notes of the utter state of chaos and confusion among Kenyan officials and security forces during the attack, while noting, for example, the conflicting reports they issued regarding the true number of the attackers and their identities.
The attack itself is described along with extensive footage obtained from security cameras inside and outside the mall shown throughout. The footage shows the attackers sweeping through the mall, and in one case, executing a person who attempted to hide from them by shooting him at close range. The video also incorporates interviews with survivors and notes the “vetting process” carried out by the mujahideen inside the mall. In this process, non-Muslims were separated from Muslims “in order to safeguard the invaluable blood of the Muslims.” It also notes that women and children were allowed to flee the scene.
The video also includes audio messages by the attackers that were being streamed live to their superiors at the time. In that regard, the video notes the leading role of Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen’s Twitter account at the time in reporting about the unfolding events. The video also mentions the fake Twitter account that published the names of the alleged attackers, and which Al-Shabab refuted shortly thereafter. The video also refutes another list of names released by Kenyan authorities following the attack.
Extolling Al-Shabab’s Twitter account’s role during the attack
Additionally, the video criticizes the conduct of KDF soldiers, who swept the mall after the siege ended. The soldiers can be seen in security footage carrying large shopping bags, and are accused of looting.
KDF soldiers (right) allegedly engaged in looting
The video concludes with threats of further attacks against Kenya, as well as calls for Muslims living the West to carry out similar attacks. Al-Shabab spokesman ‘Ali Rage addresses Kenya and says that “the war has not really started yet, and [that] between us is a long account yet to be settled. Westgate is just a drop in the ocean compared to what you have inflicted upon our Muslim brothers in Mombasa, Garissa, and Jilib.”
Rage adds: “The attacks and raids will continue and, by the will of Allah, they will not stop until you change your oppressive practices against our brothers and restore their rights in full. And what awaits you is far more grievous and more bitter by the permission of Allah…”
Calls for attacks in the West
Speaking in English, the masked video narrator directs a message to Muslims living the West, calling upon them to target the disbelievers: “We call upon our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the West, to answer the call of Allah and target the disbelievers wherever they are. If just a handful of mujahideen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week, then imagine what a dedicated mujahid in the West could do to the American- or Jewish-owed shopping centers across the world.
“What if such an attack was to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota, or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, or in London’s Oxford Street, or any in the hundred or so Jewish-owned Westfield shopping centers… Take the Westfield shopping center in Stratford… for example – what would be the implications of such an attack? One could only imagine. And all it takes is a man with firm determination, of which our Muslim ummah has plenty of.
“So hurry up, hasten towards Heaven, and do not hesitate, for the disbelievers have no right whatsoever to rejoice in the safety of their lands, until safety becomes a reality in Palestine and all the lands of Islam, and until we take vengeance on the Western Crusaders for the deaths of thousands of innocent Muslims and mujahideen leaders killed in American drone strikes…”