Chuck Hagel leads the Somali president through an honor cordon at the Pentagon Sept. 20. Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo /Flickr.com
The deadly mall attack in Kenya on Saturday is a sign that the al-Qaida-affiliated group that carried it out has been dealt a blow in Somalia and they are looking to generate headlines with more high-profile attacks in the region, a regional expert says.
The militant group that carried out the attack, al-Shabab, wants to establish an Islamist government in Somalia.
In recent years, however, African Union troops in Somalia have driven the militants out of most parts of the capital city of Mogadishu as a U.S.-supported government there has attempted to establish control over the country. At one time, al-Shabab controlled parts of Mogadishu.
The attack in Nairobi underscores al-Shabab’s organizational skills and their commitment to die for a cause, said David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and a professor at George Washington University.
But it also highlights that the group has to rely on high-profile terrorist attacks that generate headlines because they lack popular support and have failed in any direct fights with African Union forces in Somalia.
“Increasingly, al-Shabab has alienated the average Somali,” Shinn said.