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.
(Page 2 of 2)
"Yes, we are linking the grenade attack to the threats that have been issued by Shebab and that is why I am appealing to city residents to be vigilant and cooperate with our officers," Antony Kibuchi, provincial police chief for Nairobi, told the AFP.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Just one day before the grenade attack, the US Embassy in Nairobi issued a warning to US citizens in Kenya to avoid shopping malls, nightclubs, and other public areas where foreigners are known to gather, saying that the US had “credible information of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks.”
In Somalia itself, there are reports that jets are pounding suspected Al Shabab positions in the crucial port city of Kismayu, while French naval ships patrol the waters. Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir confirmed the aerial attacks, but said they were not by Kenya’s Air Force.
“It is confirmed that Kismayu has been under aerial attacks, but it is not our troops, it must be one of our allies,” he was reported as saying by the Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper. The US, which has long used drones in targeted attacks of Al Shabab commanders and foreign fighters, denies that its planes have been involved in any bombardment.
A much anticipated assault by the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, AMISOM, together with troops loyal to the transitional government, managed to push Al Shabab out of its last main footholds in Mogadishu last month. The militant group’s taxes from Mogadishu’s Bakara Market, and on shipping export and import fees in Kismayu, have long been part of their economic strength in sustaining their rebellion against the government. Loss of control of those economic hubs may be a key part of shutting the rebel group down.
“When Shabab lost control of Bakara Market in Mogadishu, the UN estimates they may have lost $40 million to $50 million a year in tax revenues, and even if it is half of that, it’s a big blow,” says Mr. Middleton. The other major source of income is Kismayu and the smaller port city of Merka, he adds, and if Shabab loses those ports as well, “the theory is that eventually that is likely to have a huge impact on their ability to fight.”
It all depends on what kind of fight Al Shabab intends to engage in, Middleton says. Fighting a conventional war against Kenyan troops, with street fighting and heavy weaponry, requires more money than the kind of asymmetrical warfare that Shabab fought against Ethiopia during its six-month long intervention in Somalia in 2006.
“There is danger that Kenya can get trapped into that kind of fighting,” Middleton says, “but maybe Kenya has a plan for that.”