Attacks in Kenya Point to al-Shabaab and Its Sympathizers

Eastleigh MP Abdi Yusuf Hasan

On 5 December 2012, attackers detonated an IED along a busy road in Eastleigh, killing 1 and injuring 9.
Two days later, a grenade attack on the al-Hidaya mosque killed 5 people and injured 37, including Eastleigh MP Abdi Yusuf Hassan (above).

Members of the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC)–a radical group that advocates for Jihad in response to marginalization against Kenyan Muslims–has claimed that the “mujahideen” were responsible for recent attacks in Nairobi’s neighborhood of Eastleigh.

After three grenade attacks since 5 December 2012, Nairobi’s Eastleigh community is reeling from continued insecurity.

In a recent tweet, the group boasted about two recent grenade and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks:
myc claim responsibility for eastleigh attack

While this was not a direct admittance of responsibility, there are increasing reasons to believe either al-Shabaab or its sympathizers (including MYC) are directly or indirectly responsible for the attacks.

  • According to UN reports from 2011 and 2012 (and MYC’s own statements), MYC has direct connections to al-Shabaab in Somalia and other violent extremist organizations–including the Ansaar Muslim Youth Centre in Tanga, Tanzania.
  • MYC members have been trained by al-Shabaab and have sent members between Somalia and Kenya for operations on both sides of the border.
  • Al-Shabaab tapped former MYC leader Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali as its Coordinator for Kenyan operations in February 2012. (The whereabouts of Sheikh Iman Ali are unknown.)
  • In recent statements, MYC has called for all sympathetic and allied groups to engage more vigorously in Jihad in East Africa, and al-Shabaab–of no surprise–has done the same.
  • Al-Shabaab’s top leader Ahmed Godane has stated that the group is capable of carrying out attacks in Kenya and has welcomed the cause of the Mombasa Republican Council–a separatist group on the country’s coast aiming to redress longstanding marginalization by the Kenyan government.
Overall, al-Shabaab and its sympathizers have made open threats on Kenya, organized the necessary operational structures, and trained its members for operations against the country–presumably done with intentions to follow through on its threats.

It is more likely that these extremist groups are responsible for the recent attacks in Eastleigh as opposed to criminal gangs like Superpowers and Sky, which are more interested in theft than launching grenades.

There are also few groups with access to resources such as hand grenades or have the capability to set up and deploy remote-controlled IEDs.

Government Response

The Kenyan government’s response to the violence has raised concerns among Eastleigh residents.

Mass arrests of 600 “suspects” in connection to one of the recent attacks has reinforced the perception that Kenyan security forces rely on thug tactics–especially against ethnic Somalis–during the course of its investigations.

As a result, there are less incentives for Eastleigh residents to comply with police investigations if they believe they will be arrested as an accomplice or if innocent community members are being falsely accused.

Equally worrying, Kenyan government officials have proposed on several occasions that the  523,000 estimated Somali refugees (who they blame for the attacks) should return to Somalia or return to refugee camps in order to expel the “perpetrators” of the violence. However, this would involve countless legal and logistical hurdles for which little to no known planning has been made. And more importantly, it unfairly punishes a large number of Somali refugees who have overcome adversity to become financially independent in lives outside the Kenyan camps.

“I have a small tailoring business which enables me to live comfortably, but if they take me back to a camp my life will be destroyed.” –Halima Yusuf Ahmed, Somali refugee

With major elections in March 2013, the Kenyan government has much to do regarding security sector reform, addressing the grievances of marginalized communities, and improving the relationships between increasingly hostile social groups in the country.

If these issues are not taken up, it will be difficult to sufficiently address ongoing security problems and the need to prevent a repeat of the electoral violence that occurred in late 2007 in which at least 1,000 people were killed and 180,000 displaced.

Categories: al-Shabaab, Kenya

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1 reply


  1. 2013 in Somalia: A Look at Security | Somalia Newsroom

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