A deadly attack by the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab in Nairobi, Kenya at an upscale shopping mall has raised security concerns for Americans home and abroad.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations John Campbell says the U.S. should be aware of the militants’ recent activities in East Africa.
“Al-Shabab is a movement based in Somalia … it [has] a desire to create a pure, Islamic state in Somalia,” said Campbell.
One of the group’s main goals is to remove all foreign troops from Somalia. “That ranges from the Ethiopians to the Kenyans,” said Campbell.
“It’s more of a movement than it’s an organization.” Campbell suggested that “there are power struggles that gone on within it [al-Shabab] which are really obscure to us outsiders.”
Debate remains over whether al-Shabab is growing stronger - or if the group is “on its knees.”
“In the face of increased military activity, its fighters simply melted away to regroup at a more opportune time,” said Campbell.
“Al-Shabab says it’s affiliated with Al Qaeda, but what exactly do those words mean?” said Campbell. “I have seen no particular evidence that al-Shabab receives any kind of direction” from the global militant Islamist organization.
Campbell believes that an attack similar to the one in Nairobi is “highly unlikely” in the U.S., “not least because the United States is well policed and has lots of ways of discovering plots before they can be brought to fruition.”
Kenya is part of an African Union mission fighting Islamic extremists in the region. Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Nairobi attack.
Officials will seek to determine what role Al Qaeda had in helping al-Shabab plan this attack.
Chris Snyder is a producer for Fox News based in New York. Follow him on twitter: @ChrisSnyderFox.