Kenya mall attack: Evidence of an Al Qaeda revival?
The attack on a shopping mall in Kenya prompted US Republican lawmakers Sunday to say that the attack showed Al Qaeda is growing in size and strength, belying the Obama administration's claims that it has grown weaker.
The White House is under pressure to ramp up counterterrorism action against Al Shabab in Somalia following the al Qaeda-linked group's deadly attack on an upscale Kenyan shopping mall that has killed and injured dozens, including Americans.Skip to next paragraph
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Republican lawmakers Sunday said the attack showed Al Qaeda is growing in size and strength, belying the Obama administration's claims that it has grown weaker.
"They're not on the decline," said Sen. Tom Coburn, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''They're on the rise, as you can see from Nairobi."
Al Shabab militants launched their assault on Saturday, storming the mall with grenades and gunfire. Kenyan security forces launched a "major" assault late Sunday on the mall, where the militants were still holding an unknown number of hostages, trying to end the two-day standoff that had already killed at least 68 people. The Kenya Defense Forces said their troops had rescued "most" hostages and taken control of most of the mall in Nairobi.
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Kenya's interior minister says two Islamic extremists were killed Monday as military forces waged an operation to rescue hostages inside an upscale mall in Nairobi. A top military official said he believes the attackers are "a multinational collection from all over the world."
After four large blasts rocked the Westgate Mall on Monday, sending out large plumes of smoke, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said Monday that the two militants died from "our morning activities."
State Department spokesman Marie Harf said five U.S. citizens were among the more than 175 injured, but no Americans were among those reported killed. Harf said U.S. law enforcement, military and civilian personnel in Nairobi are providing advice and assistance as requested by the Kenyan authorities.
U.S. counterterrorism officials throughout the Obama administration have debated whether to target the Somalia-based rebel group more directly, especially after it merged with Al Qaeda in early 2012. But U.S. action has been limited to the occasional drone strike or raid when a particularly high-value Al Qaeda arget comes into view, while relying primarily on assisting Somali and African peacekeeping forces to carry out the day-to-day fight.
That decision was partly driven by the fear that directly targeting al-Shabab would spur the group to expand its own target list, striking at U.S. diplomatic posts overseas and calling on members of the Somali diaspora inside the U.S. to carry out attacks, according to multiple current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials. They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly internal policy decisions.
A White House official said Sunday that the administration had taken a "balanced approach."