Shabaab released a statement from its emir, Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, that addressed the terror group’s assault on the Westgate Mall in Kenya that resulted in the deaths of at least 61 civilians and six Kenyan troops during four days of fighting. Zubayr praised the “Mujahideen Martyrom Seekers” and what he called “this epic battle – the Badar of Nairobi,” and threatened further attacks if Kenyan forces do not withdraw from Somalia. He also praised al Qaeda’s attack on the US on Sept. 11, 2001 as “the blessed 911 operations.”
A transcript of Zubayr’s statement was released in English today by Shabaab’s official Twitter account, HSM Press.
“On Saturday 21 September 2013, and which was just 10 days after the anniversary date of the blessed 911 operations, a battle which is among the epic battles in the history of Islam began in Nairobi, and in which some of the Mujahideen Martyrom Seekers have written with their blood,” Zubayr said. “Allah has honoured the Mujahideen fighters to write this epic battle – the Badar of Nairobi – with their blood and to change the course of history and avenge the deaths of the weak, oppressed Muslims.”
He claimed that Shabaab attacked the mall to defend against “the invasion of their Muslim lands and the massacre of innocent Muslims.”
Zubayr said the assault on the upscale Kenyan mall was designed “to torment the Kenyan leaders who’ve impulsively invaded the Islamic Wilaayat [governorate],” referring to Somalia.
“It was also a retribution against the Western states that supported the Kenyan invasion and are spilling the blood of innocent Muslims in order to pave the way for their mineral companies,” Zubayr continued.
He claimed the attack highlighted the deficiencies of Kenyan and Western security forces as they were unable to retake the mall from the small Shabaab assault team, estimated to be around 15 fighters, for nearly four days.
“[T]his was demonstrated by the utter failure that their [Kenya’s] forces came against when they tried to storm the building that was occupied by the Mujahideen,” he continued.
“The attack is also a slap in the face of on the dwindling economy of the Kenyan government and has also successfully foiled the clandestine schemes of the Zionist Jews in Kenya,” Zubayr said. “It’s a disaster for the Western politicians and their intelligence apparatuse who have miserably failed to save their own citizens.”
Zubayr ended his speech by threatening further attacks unless Kenyan forces are withdrawn from the Somali south.
“There is no way that you, the Kenyan public, could possibly endure a prolonged war in Somalia and you cannot also withstand a war of attrition inside your own country,” he warned. “So make your choice today and withdraw all your forces from the Islamic Wilaayaat, otherwise be prepared for an abundance of blood that will be spilt in your country, economic downfall and displacement.”
Zubayr’s statement was released just hours after Shabaab claimed on Twitter that Kenyan forces ended the siege by firing “projectiles containing chemical agents” and then “carried out a demolition to the building, burying evidence and all hostages under the rubble.”
Shabaab also disputed the government’s claim, made last night by President Uhuru Kenyatta, that only 61 civilians were killed. Shabaab alleged that the government was “culpable for #Westgate and for the lives of the 137 hostages who were being held by the Mujahideen.”
At least three stories of the mall collapsed during the Kenyan military’s final assault on the building, and Kenyatta provided the final death toll before the rubble was searched. Today, the Kenyan Red Cross indicated that more than 70 people thought to be in the mall are still missing.
“The number of persons reported to KRCS as missing rose to by 51 to 71 by close of yesterday,” the Kenyan Red Cross said in a statement.
Additionally, Kenyatta claimed that security forces killed five Shabaab fighters and captured 11 more. But it is unclear if the 11 captured fighters were detained at the mall, or were members of the support cell captured far from the fighting.