Grenade attack shows risks of Kenya's Somalia war coming home
A grenade attack early Monday on a Nairobi bar injured 14 and underscores the dangers Kenya may face after launching attacks in Somalia in response to kidnappings of foreign tourists in Kenya.
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Kenya launched a military incursion into Somalia on Oct. 15, after a string of kidnappings of foreign tourists and aid workers by Somali gunmen began to take a toll on Kenya’s crucial tourism industry. Its troops are reportedly approaching the southern Somali town of Afmadow, a crucial way station on the road to the port city of Kismayu, where the Islamist militia group Al Shabab maintains its main base of operations.
No group has taken responsibility for the Sunday night grenade attack on the Mwaura Pub, a bar in Nairobi’s thriving downtown. Nairobi police say they have no evidence linking the attack to Al Shabab, but told Agence France-Presse that they were investigating the Islamist militia group, which has threatened retaliatory attacks on Kenya because of its incursion. Al Shabab carried out suicide blasts against Uganda in July 2010 because of Uganda’s military support for an African Union peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu, propping up Somalia’s fragile transitional government.
“It’s easy to attack any major city, as we’ve seen from the attacks on London and Madrid, which are much farther away from areas of conflict than Nairobi is, and we have seen that in Uganda, Shabab was taking the fight against the country whose troops they are fighting at home, so the risks for Kenya are real,” says Roger Middleton, a Horn of Africa expert at Chatham House, a London think tank.
Taking a war home to one’s enemy has great risks for both sides. For Kenya, the risk of intervention is that Al Shabab supporters can launch even more terror attacks against a country that relies heavily on tourism and that increasingly pins its future on high technology and information services. Kenya could also create an internal enemy if it handles its own sizable ethnic Somali population too harshly. But for Somali militants, launching terror attacks on Kenyan soil could have a galvanizing effect on a Kenyan public whose patience with Somalia’s two decades of civil war – and with hosting at least 500,000 Somali drought and war refugees – could well run out.
On Monday, Nairobi police officials were cautiously investigating links between the grenade attack and Al Shabab.