Changing Nature of Jihadi Terrorism: Nairobi

Nairobi was stuck by bloodiest terrorist attack in recent times from Somali jihadi terrorist organization Al-Shebab which killed more than 62 people and injured over 400 people. This was after two days of combing operations by the Kenyan military which killed 10-15 militants and hostages were freed.

This dastardly act has similarities with 26/11 Mumbai blasts which took place in 2008 in which 164 (civilians and security personnel) lost their lives and 308 persons were injured. [1] The intensity of Mumbai attacks was much larger in its ambit the modus operandi [2] of the terrorists was to kill innocent people. It was similar in the case of Nairobi to kill foreign, non-Muslims, innocent people. Second was to create havoc and panic by attacking the most luxurious places in the city, so that the reaction of the people to terrorist attack is met with “shock and awe” In case of Mumbai attacks it was Lashkar-e-Toiba. Nairobi attacks it was Al-Shebab. Third, numerically militants used in the operations were similar in both terror attacks, even though in Mumbai there were many sites where bomb blasts and shooting took place, in the case of Nairobi it was concentrated in the upscale mall.

Al-shebab is not a recent phenomenon and had carried out similar nature of operations in the past. For instance: In June, 2009, it staged a suicide bombing targeting the Medina hotel in Beledweyne, following up in December with another strike on a university graduation ceremony in Mogadishu. [3] Then, in July, 2010, it staged its first known transnational strike, killing 74 people watching the football World Cup in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Last summer, 15 people were killed when terrorists hit a church in Kenya.[4]

There may be backgrounder to this jihadi terrorist’s organisation which comes from Somalia and is said to possess 5000 sharp fighters. As reported by, the United Nations’ Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea last year. “There have been multi-national peacekeeping forces called AMISOM” (the African Union Mission in Somalia). Ever since the presence of the forces, the fissure laden group of al-Shehbab has consolidated and caused maximum damage in Nairobi. Off late, there have been major differences within them in relation to increasing expanding sphere of influence of Al-Qaeda.

The manner in which they attacked in Nairobi shows the coordination and execution of a terrorist operation in professional way. As pointed out by anti-terrorism experts, “Osama is gone now, his jihadi ideology lives on” As pointed out by Christiania C. Fair, “Jihadi movements are kind of Che Guevara for the jihadist movement”: an icon important not for the operational role he played, but an inspirational figure.[5]

The big change comes from 9/11 to 26/11 in the nature of terror attacks. Hereby I draw my contrasts: nowadays, terrorists are improvising every tool which is available in the structures of state to their advantage. Secondly, the terrorists are not bombing buildings and killing on mass scale, rather prefer strategic strikes with precision and cause collateral damage. Guerilla tactics is being refined in each terror attacks, which is a cause for concern for anti-terrorist experts. For U.S. which has been running dim operations from Camp Lemmonier, next to the airport in the former French colonial outpost of Djibouti with eight Predator drones, eight F-18E bombers, transport jets and some 300 Special Forces personnel have been operating against jihadist targets.[6] The question which comes is; has the time come to re-think on counter terror operations? The root causes of terrorism are not being addressed, if al-Shebab is exterminated, we would have another jihadi organisation with different nomenclature emerging and wreaking havoc. Does the origin of jihadi terrorists lie in structural system of nature of state in Africa which is weaker in their democratisation and institutional process of evolution?

These questions need to be addressed by anti-terror experts in order to cease the expansion of Jihadi Al-Qaeda brand of terrorism in African states. A lot of work needs to be done, except drone attacks to exterminate these terrorists, we need to nullify the ideological basis of Jihadi thought process.

[1] Ministry of Union Home Affairs Annual Report, 2008
[2] Modus Operandi was much well executed in case of Mumbai, there were bomb attacks in parts of Mumbai and shoot out operations in five star hotels, Jewish prayer hall, railway station.
[3] Swami Praveen. “Nairobi terror attack: Lessons India should learn”,, 22nd September, 2013,
[4] Ibid. in “Kenya church attacks 'kill 15' in Garissa”, BBC News World, 01 July, 2012,
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid. in Axe David, U.S. “Expands Secretive Drone Base for African Shadow War”, 26th October, 2012, Wired


More by :  Rahul Mukand

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