The district of Hodan, in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, exemplifies the city’s transformation in recent years. Visitors can find open-air pizza restaurants, ice-cream parlors and shisha bars, hotels and restaurants, barrow boys hawking bananas and mangoes, and taxis and cars honking their way through the throng. Pretty much every day is busy, but Saturdays are especially so. This past Saturday, a massive truck bomb detonated in Hodan, killing more than three hundred people, an unprecedented death toll in Somalia which may rise as bodies are hauled from the wreckage. Continue reading After years of progress, a deadly setback in Somalia
On the inside Nairobi’s Westgate mall is a shiny shopping centre, all sparkling glass shop fronts, Bose-conveyed muzak and boutiques stuffed with expensive imports. On the outside it is a fortress.
Four years ago, Islamic militants raided the mall killing at least 67 people. They tossed grenades over the balustrade from the pavement then stormed through the front entrance and up the car parking ramp shooting as they went. The modus operandi was reminiscent of the Mumbai attacks five years earlier.
Yet Westgate has drifted into what Caine Prize-winning Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor describes as “our national propensity to amnesia for ‘bad things’.” Two years after the mall reopened, Westgate remains glossy and new, as if nothing happened. There’s plenty for the well-heeled shopper but not even a plaque for the dead. Continue reading Forgetting Westgate: how Kenya erases terrorism
On a Sunday morning in September three young women were killed by officers at the main police station in Kenya’s second city — but that’s the only fact beyond doubt in a case that activists say is further evidence of a police force gone rogue.
Recent arrests show the Islamic State’s growing presence in East Africa, where they are recruiting young Kenyans for jihad abroad and raising fears some of them will return to threaten the country.
Kenyan intelligence agencies estimate that around 100 men and women may have gone to join the IS in Libya and Syria, triggering concern that some may come back to stage attacks on Kenyan and foreign targets in a country already victim to regular, deadly terrorism.
On a Sunday afternoon in late February a car exploded outside a crowded restaurant in Baidoa, Somalia, and moments later a suicide bomber blew himself up among fleeing survivors. At least 30 people died in the attack, the latest by the Shabaab, a Somali-led Al-Qaeda group in East Africa that continues to defy repeated predictions of its demise. Continue reading East Africa’s Shabaab ‘can survive for 30 years’
Dadaab is a confounding place, a low-slung conurbation of wind-swept, sun-beaten shelters adrift in Kenya’s wild northeast. The wind is unrelenting, the heat unbearable, yet it is home to 350,000 people, refugees who escaped war and famine only to find themselves trapped here.
They depend on food handouts yet the markets are also stuffed with fresh mangos and Samsung smartphones. There are few jobs yet some are spectacularly wealthy. It is a place of hopelessness and opportunity. Dadaab is temporary, but has existed for 25 years and is the focus of Ben Rawlence’s book.
12:55 p.m. Simon Belcher lay on his front beneath a black Range Rover, breathing deeply, wanting to unsee the pile of mangled bodies a few yards in front of him. He turned his head toward his wife, Amanda, who was hiding beneath a white 4×4 to his right. “I love you,” he mouthed silently before resting his head on the pavement.
The bullet that had struck Simon a few moments earlier passed through his torso and right arm while shrapnel from an exploding gas canister had torn into his abdomen. An unexploded hand grenade lay nearby. The masked gunmen, two of them, with military webbing slung around their bony shoulders and AK-47 assault rifles in their hands, had disappeared. Inside the mall, Simon guessed.
Late last year, the Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow produced a powerful short called “Last Days,” about the dangers and depredations of “ivory-funded terrorism.” Viewers — and Ms. Bigelow’s celebrity friends — were encouraged to share #LastDays on social media, which many duly did. Their efforts gave yet another boost to the widely accepted belief that terrorists across Africa are killing elephants and selling the ivory to finance their attacks. But like her full-length feature film “Zero Dark Thirty,” Ms. Bigelow is offering a beguiling story divorced from reality. Continue reading The Ivory-Funded Terrorism Myth
Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow has made a 3-minute animated short called “Last Days,” telling the story of ivory poaching and the threat it poses to elephants. The film begins in the markets of Beijing and New York, then rewinds to Africa, where elephants are being hunted and killed at an astonishing rate.
It is mostly a 2-D animation but also features footage from last year’s Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi because, according to Bigelow’s film, Al Shabaab, the Somalia-based Al Qaeda group responsible for the attack, earns money from poaching elephants.
Terrorists killing elephants to fund their atrocities is a powerful, troubling story that deftly taps two hot-button issues linking them in one awful, unified narrative. No wonder it grabs attention.
In the end, it wasn’t clan militias or Islamic militants but a government soldier who killed Dr. Osman.
Over his 54 years, the pharmacist had earned a reputation for fair dealing in business, kindness among friends, and piety in the mosque. A family man, he had survived Somalia’s clan wars and then kept his head down when the Islamic militants known as Al Shabaab overran his hometown in southern Somalia five years ago. A follower of a softer, mystical branch of Islam, he obeyed the ultraconservative occupiers’ harsh new rules — don’t smoke, don’t chew khat, pay the Islamic tax, go to the mosque five times a day without fail — and carried on.