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It’s terrorism vs tourism as gunmen storm hotel

January 17, 2019 Headline News No Comments

The latest attack by Islamic extremists, directed yesterday against an upmarket hotel complex in Kenya, underscores a continuing terrorist strategy of attacking tourism targets.

Somali-based Muslim terrorist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for yesterday’s Nairobi hotel attack that killed at least 15 people in the Kenyan capital. The main target was the Dusit D2 Hotel, owned by the Bangkok-based Dusit Thani Group of companies, a Thai multinational hospitality corporation running 29 hotels and resorts in 18 countries.

As terrorists launched their deadly attack on the hotel and surrounding office complex in Kenya’s capital, explosions and heavy gunfire sent people fleeing in panic.

Gunmen used explosives to blow up the main door of the hotel, which is across the road from the Australian embassy.

Once inside the Dusit complex, heavily armed men started shooting indiscriminately, using grenades and self-loading rifles to kill as many people as possible. The victims, as a BBC correspondent put it, were: “Ordinary people going about their business, murdered as they had lunch or did their jobs.”

British Special forces deployed in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday. They were assisting local security forces in responding to the terror attack. Eleven Kenyans, an American and a Briton were among the casualties, morgue staff told ABC News.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) already advises Australians to “exercise a high degree of caution in Kenya due to the high threat of terrorist attack and high level of crime”. DFAT’s Smartraveller website drew attention to the attack yesterday, adding:   

“Those in the area should minimise movement and avoid the affected area. Remain vigilant, and pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media, follow the advice of local authorities and other sources about possible new security risks. We haven’t changed our level of advice – ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’ in Kenya overall. Higher levels apply in some parts of the country.”

Yesterday’s atrocity was the latest in a series in which Islamic extremists have directed surprise attacks against tourism or entertainment-related enterprises. They do this because:

  1. They are soft targets, generally undefended.
  2. Victims are unarmed and off their guard.
  3. Publicity about the attack may deter other tourists, affecting the economy of the host country.

Al-Shabab is a cell of the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda. It opposes the Somali government and has carried out attacks throughout East Africa. The group dislikes Kenya because Kenya is part of a regional peacekeeping operation that supports the Somali government.

In September 2013, al-Shabab gunmen entered the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and targeted shoppers. During an 80-hour siege at the upscale centre, 67 people were killed.

Two years later, the group carried out its deadliest ever atrocity in Kenya, shooting dead almost 150 people at Garissa University.

Al-Shabab’s emblem is two Kalashnikov self-loading assault rifles crossed beneath a copy of the Koran (the Muslim holy book) with Arabic calligraphy.

The Australian Government proscribes Al-Shabab as a terrorist organisation under Division 102 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, with the following description: 

Al-Shabaab’s primary objective is the establishment of an Islamist state in the Horn of Africa based on Sharia law and the elimination of secular and foreign influence, including through violent means. On 9 February 2012, al-Shabaab pledged its allegiance to proscribed terrorist organisation al-Qa‘ida.

Written by Peter Needham

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