President Barack Obama declared in his 2013 inaugural speech that, "a decade of war is receding." However, al-Shabab's seizure of a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall illustrates, in cold blood, that the terrorists' war on the civilized continues — its savagery and political calculation undiminished.
American soldiers say the enemy always gets a vote. On Sept. 21, al-Shabab, al-Qaida's Somalia branch, voted by staging a militant Islamist terror spectacular, rife with icon targets and domination imagery of the ilk Osama bin Laden exploited.
Emulating tactics Pakistani Islamist terrorists employed in their November 2008 Mumbai, India assault, at least 15 heavily-armed terrorists entered Nairobi's upscale Westgate Mall, and quickly slaughtered several dozen shoppers. The terrorists then seized live hostages, using them as human shields while erecting defensive barricades in tourist clothing boutiques. For four days gunfire and explosions shredded mall promenades and galleries — three floors eventually collapsed — as Kenyan security forces counter-attacked.
Store-to-store combat ended Sept. 24, with Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, proclaiming victory. Security officials, however, remain wary. Police have arrested 11 terrorists in and around the mall, but suspect that accomplices remain at large. The terrorists murdered at least 61 civilians, including one of the president's nephews. The death toll may rise. Over 175 people were injured.
Six Kenyan security officers and six terrorists died in the battle, and it was indeed a battle — another battle in a very long war, which is far from over.
Kenyans know war is not receding. President Kenyatta characterized the war as a continuing struggle. He said Kenya needs help in fighting terrorism, and he meant the militant Islamist apocalyptic terrorism of al-Shabab, al-Qaida and their global allies.
Walk through Nairobi, East Africa's international hub, and you will encounter people from Africa, India, Arabia, Europe and the Americas. Westgate is an international mall. Perhaps it is a World Trade Center writ small, but for militants it is an icon. When al-Shabab attacked Kampala, Uganda in July 2010, the terrorists bombed sports cafes where soccer fans were watching World Cup matches on TV. Militant Islamists loathe the current world, which is why they wage a global war against it.
Other east, central and west sub-Saharan African nations along the so-called Muslim-Christian fault line crossing the continent are as vulnerable as Kenya, perhaps more so. Fault zone is a better description, for there is no clean divide between the predominantly Muslim, Arabized north and predominantly Christian-animist Black African south. Muslim enclaves dot the East African coast, a legacy of Arab traders and, yes, Arab imperialists and slavers. East Africa's Arab slaving legacy is a historical trauma, which seems to escape the damnation narratives of Western academics invested in blaming the West for sub-Saharan Africa's ills.
The Sudan civil war (1983-2005) featured slave raids conducted by Islamic militias loyal to Sudan (Khartoum). The raiders enslaved Christian and animist Black Africans in what is now South Sudan. A Baltimore Sun 1996 investigation documented the crime. The raids also served as psychological object lessons, reminding non-Muslim Black Africans that, for a millennium, Arab Muslims wielded regional supremacy. The message was domination.
Al-Shabab's mall-terror team reportedly freed Muslim Kenyans, and then murdered non-Muslims. The terrorists asked their victims to name Muhammad's mother, Aminah. Shrug, and they kill you. Again, domination, not co-existence.
Al-Shabab spokesmen called the attack payback for Kenya's Somalia invasion two years ago. Missing from his statement, and those of his Western apologists, are the two decades of Somali militant border attacks and troublemaking in the Mombasa region. He didn't mention al-Qaida's August 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, killing 213 people.
As for Islamist Sudan's slow war on South Sudan, Muslim Chad's and Sudan's finagling in the Central African Republic, and the centuries of Arab slavers working the Horn of Africa and the Swahili Coast? Silence.
At least al-Shabab's propagandists didn't claim that a decade of war is receding. They know that's a crock.
Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist.