As Shabaab fighters continue to hold out inside the Westgate Mall in Kenya for the fourth day after assaulting the upscale shopping center on Saturday, the al Qaeda group’s media arm on Twitter threatened that a “big surprise” was in store for Kenyans. Shabaab released the following statement on Twitter just minutes ago:
The Kenyan govt and FM haven’t the faintest idea of what’s going on inside #Westgate mall. Rest assured, Kenyans are in for a big surprise!
The group did not detail the nature of the “big surprise” (or it wouldn’t be a surprise), but previous tweets over the past few hours indicate that the members of the assault team are holding their ground, despite claims from Kenyan officials last night that the mall has been secured, and the team still has hostages. Here are two tweets from HSM Press Office, Shabaab’s official Twitter account:
The hostages who were being held by the Mujahideen inside #Westgate are still alive, looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, aliveThere are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the Mujahideen are still holding their ground #Westgate
Given that Shabaab still seems to be holding hostages (estimates are about 60 people are still missing, although some or many may be those who are dead and whose bodies have not been recovered), it is possible that the group may has planted explosives and will detonate them during the Kenyans’ final assault. It is also possible that there may be some form of public execution of the hostages. Or, it is also possible Shabaab is posturing for the media.
Shabaab also released a statement on Twitter today from Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage (Ali Dhere), its official spokesman, which laid out the group’s demands. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. Rage said that if the “Kenyan government and those in its orbit … want peacefulness and safety, they should leave our country, and stop their intervention in our affairs, and release our captives, and abandon all forms of fighting against our religion.”
“If you refuse, you saw what happened, and this is just the beginning and some of the punishment. So, wait for dark days, for you will need to wail O enemies of the religion and humanity,” Rage said.
One final point: Shabaab, which is often incorrectly described by some terrorism analysts as a local jihadist group interested only in taking control of Somalia, made clear in another tweet that it is striving to implement a global Islamic Caliphate (Khilaafa):
A new era is on the horizon. A new dawn, illuminating the path towards #Khilaafa. It’s a paradigm shift
While the double suicide attack in Uganda in the summer of 2011 and the group’s oath of allegiance to al Qaeda in early 2012 should have made it painfully clear to said analysts that Shabaab was part of the global jihad, the attack at Westgate is undeniable proof that Shabaab cannot be considered merely a local threat confined to Somalia.