The Nairobi Attack and Al-Shabab’s Media Strategy

Oct 24, 2013

After carrying out a bold attack inside the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, the Somali militant group al-Shabab succeeded in recapturing the media spotlight. This was in large part due to the nature of the attack, its duration, the difficulty in resecuring the mall, the number of casualties, and al-Shabab’s aggressive media campaign during and immediately after the attack.[1]

From al-Shabab’s perspective, the attack on Westgate Mall was a media triumph, particularly coming in the midst of a growing rift among jihadists both inside and outside Somalia regarding the consolidation of power by the group’s amir, Ahmed “Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr” Godane. The attack also followed a year in which al-Shabab lost control of significant amounts of territory in Somalia, most importantly major urban and economic centers such as the cities of Baidoa and Kismayo.

This article examines al-Shabab’s media strategy during and immediately after the Westgate Mall attack, both via micro-blogging on Twitter through its various accounts as well as more traditional media formats such as audio statements from the group’s leadership. The article also puts the group’s media operations for the Westgate attack in historical context by comparing and contrasting them to al-Shabab’s past media campaigns. Finally, the article concludes with an assessment of al-Shabab’s current state of health and the potential for more spectacular acts of violence, in large part as political and media spectacles designed to capture public attention.[2] It finds that al-Shabab, despite facing increased political and military setbacks, remains adept at executing audacious attacks designed to attract the maximum amount of media attention. Its media operatives are still able to skillfully exploit its enemies’ mistakes on the battlefield and in the information operations war, as well as manipulating the news cycle by inserting sensationalist claims.[3] It also finds that al-Shabab has maintained a great deal of continuity with its messaging toward foreign state actors active in Somalia, despite the insurgents’ shifting fortunes on the ground.[4]

The Westgate Attack
Al-Shabab’s complex assault on the Westgate Mall began just after noon on Saturday, September 21, 2013, when an undetermined number of gunmen entered the facility and began throwing grenades and shooting indiscriminately.[5] Eyewitness accounts from the early stages of the attack suggested that the first response from Kenyan security forces was, at best, disorganized, which likely was one of the reasons that the militants were able to prolong the attack over several days.[6] After the initial failed attempts to stop them, the attackers proceeded to pick out targets from among those trapped inside the mall, in some places separating Muslims from non-Muslims.[7] Kenyan authorities remained unsure as to developments inside the mall nearly an hour into the attack, and the first army units arrived in the late afternoon, although confusion continued due to the lack of clear command-and-control between the Kenyan military and police.[8] The Kenyan military and police—reportedly aided by foreign advisers from the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel—helped hundreds of trapped shoppers escape the mall throughout the siege.[9]

The standoff between the al-Shabab fighters and Kenyan security forces continued through the weekend. At 1:28 p.m. Kenyan time on September 22, however, the Kenyan military’s official Twitter account said that most of those trapped inside had been rescued and “most parts” of the mall complex were under control.[10] The claim that the attack was nearly over was disproved in the early morning of September 23 when an explosion rocked the Westlands district of Nairobi where the Westgate Mall is located. More large explosions followed in the early afternoon. Confusion reportedly continued with regards to the exact chain-of-command among the Kenyan military and police, with differences emerging between commanders and the office of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.[11] Fighting continued into the evening of Tuesday, September 24, and President Kenyatta only declared a formal end to the siege late in the evening on the same day.[12] The following day, shopkeepers and restaurateurs were able to return to their businesses inside the mall, where some discovered evidence of theft and looting by some Kenyan soldiers.[13] The number of casualties currently stands at 72, including five of the attackers and six Kenyan soldiers.[14] As of October 15, the Red Cross reported that 23 people were still missing after the attack, although the Kenyan government claims all those missing have been accounted for.[15]

Kenyan authorities initially believed that there were 10 to 15 attackers, but have since revised their estimate to as low as four to six.[16] They have named four individuals they believe participated in the attack: Abu Bara’ al-Sudani (“the Sudanese”), Omar al-Nabhan, Khattab al-Kini (“the Kenyan”), and an individual named Umayr.[17] All four were reportedly members of al-Hijra, al-Shabab’s chief Kenyan ally, which was formerly known as the Muslim Youth Center.[18] If the attack was indeed carried out largely by fighters from al-Hijra, it would be yet another sign of the increasing importance to al-Shabab of its Kenyan allies and support networks, which have steadily increased since 2010.[19]

Al-Shabab’s Media Operations During the Siege
The start of al-Shabab’s use of Twitter as a propaganda tool began on December 7, 2011, following the entrance of the Kenyan military into southern Somalia in October 2011.[20] Since then, it has attracted significant attention from journalists.[21] Since its debut on Twitter, al-Shabab has made great use of the micro-blogging format to deliver its counternarrative to events occurring inside Somalia, running commentary on a host of political, social, and religious issues, and taunting its enemies, such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) force inside Somalia, the Somali federal government, and the United States.[22]

The insurgent group’s media department provided a continuous stream of “updates” and commentary throughout the assault on Westgate Mall.[23] This reveals that the group recognizes the value of tweeting, particularly in English, in attracting the attention of the world’s news media. Prior to launching their assault, the attackers may have set up a “command-and-control center” in an unidentified vehicle positioned earlier in the day on September 21.[24] Intelligence intercepts suggested that some of the Twitter updates posted by al-Shabab’s HSM Press (Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahidin) account were sent from there.[25]

The tweets posted to the account during the assault attempted to deliver al-Shabab’s message in a number of different areas. First, there was the promotion of the insurgents’ counternarrative, which painted the attack on Westgate Mall as a response to the greater suffering endured by those inside Somalia. Some example tweets included: “The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders. #Wetsgate [sic]”; “What Kenyans are witnessing at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military, albeit largely miniscule in nature”; and “The attacks are just retribution for the lives of innocent Muslims shelled by Kenyan jets in Lower Jubba [in Somalia] and in refugee camps #Westgate.”[26]

Second, al-Shabab directed renewed warnings to the Kenyan government and public, linking the latter’s security to the removal of the thousands of Kenyan military personnel from Somalia. Some example tweets included: “HSM has on numerous occasions warned the #Kenyan government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences”; and “The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia #Westgate.”[27] They also made a direct demand for the removal of Kenyan forces from Somalia: “The message we are sending to the Kenyan govt & Public is and has always been just one: remove all your forces from our country #Westgate.”[28]

Third, and most importantly for the use of its Twitter messaging as a propaganda tool designed to attract media attention, the HSM Press account purportedly posted “updates” on the ongoing siege at a time when conflicting reports abounded. These included tweets announcing the attack on the “Kenyan Kuffar [unbelievers] inside their own turf,” denying the cessation of fighting between “the mujahidin” and the Kenyan military and police, alleging that the Kenyan government was “pleading” with the attackers inside the mall to negotiate, and reports of the calmness of the attackers despite being under siege by Kenyan security forces.[29] Al-Shabab also claimed via Twitter that it had “singled out” only “unbelievers” in the attack and had “escorted out” Muslims before the attack began, announcing that the defense of Muslim lands “is one of the foremost obligations after faith & defending against the aggressive enemy is our right as Muslims.”[30]

Al-Shabab’s discourse via more traditional channels—such as press statements broadcast on the radio and distributed online via pro-Shabab news websites—delivered similar messages. In an audio statement on September 21, al-Shabab’s senior spokesman, Ali Mohamed Rage (also known as Ali Dheere), said that the Westgate Mall attack was in response to the attack by “Christian Kenya” on Somalia via the southern region of Jubba.[31] The Kenyans, he alleged, committed massacres of Somali civilians, including women and children, with fighter aircraft and heavy weapons.[32] The Kenyan government, Rage said, continues to ignore the insurgents’ warnings to withdraw from its “illegal” occupation of parts of Somalia or face the consequences at home.[33] Rage painted the attack as an “eye for an eye,” citing the second half of a Qur’anic verse, which reads, “And the one who attacks you, attack him in a manner similar to that which he attacked you.”[34] Rage said that the attack was carried out by a specially trained squad of fighters who were “defending” their religion and avenging the innocents killed by the Kenyan military.[35]

Insurgent Media as an Alternative News Source
Since it emerged in 2007-2008 as the premier insurgent movement fighting the then-Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia, al-Shabab has expressed an interest in “correcting false news” about itself.[36] The latest stage in the evolution of the group’s media operations was the rebranding of a part of its media department as the “al-Kataib News Channel,” a source of news about “the mujahidin” that was unbiased and brought “the truth directly from the battlefield.”[37] Through this rebranding effort, al-Shabab promoted its propaganda videos as “documentaries” and a form of “insurgent journalism” that revealed the “truth” in the midst of the falsehoods supposedly being spread by the Western media about the group.[38]

Advancing its counternarrative is a key part of al-Shabab’s media strategy, as is evident by the group’s handling of the Westgate Mall story. By claiming to be in close contact with the militants inside the mall, its media operatives garnered a great deal of attention from news media outlets around the world. It is suspected that al-Shabab succeeded multiple times in circumventing attempts to prevent them from micro-blogging by creating a new account each time a Twitter suspension went into effect.[39] Al-Shabab also tailored its different Twitter feeds to their different audiences, focusing on more domestic issues via its Somali language Twitter account.[40] The confused handling of the crisis by the Kenyan government benefited al-Shabab’s efforts to manipulate the reporting of the attack, on which it was quick to capitalize. Al-Shabab has undermined its enemies’ claims previously as well, releasing photographs showing dead AMISOM soldiers, including close-ups of their identification cards and captured weapons and equipment, following AMISOM denials of suffering casualties in attacks in Somalia.[41]

After Westgate: Continuity in Media Operations
On the last day of the attack, al-Shabab’s HSM Press Twitter account was still busy disseminating the group’s messages and attempting to influence the news cycle. In the early hours of September 24, the group continued to deny reports that the siege had ended, callously noting that “countless dead bodies” were scattered throughout the mall as the attackers continued to hold out.[42] A still image from closed circuit television from inside the mall showing two of the attackers was also released.[43] In a tweet clearly demonstrating that the group’s media operatives were well aware of events impacting Muslims outside of Somalia, HSM Press quoted and heralded “mujahid” Michael Adebolajo, one of two young British men charged with murdering off-duty soldier Private Lee Rigby on May 22, 2013, in London. Shortly after Rigby’s murder, Adebolajo said that it was an “eye for an eye” response to British aggression against Muslims.[44] In the tweet, al-Shabab said, “His [attack] was #Woolwich [in London], #Westgate ours!”[45]

The insurgents, via Twitter, also alleged that the Kenyan government had used “chemical agents” in Westgate Mall in a desperate attempt to end the siege.[46] To cover “their crime,” the HSM Press feed continued, the Kenyan government destroyed the building, burying scores beneath the rubble.[47] Al-Shabab also commented on Western media speculation that the so-called “White Widow” (British militant Samantha Lewthwaite) was involved in the attack.[48] The group denied that “any woman” was involved, stating, “We have an adequate number of young men who are fully committed & we do not employ our sisters in such military operations.”[49] The insurgents, perhaps aware of potentially damaging public relations, also denied targeting women and children in the attack, saying that they provided them “safe passage,” a claim belied by the evidence.[50]

Al-Shabab repeated its earlier demands to the Kenyan public to pressure their government to withdraw its military forces from Somalia. In exchange, al-Shabab would allow Kenyans to live in peace: “Kenyans, look how fear has gripped your nation…You can put on a brave face but you’re shaken. Your spirit is on the wane &your leaders lack the moral fibre to do the right thing…You could have avoided all this and lived your lives with relative safety. Remove your forces from our country and peace will come.”[51]

There is a precedent for al-Shabab’s use of this type of media strategy. The group employed a similar strategy with Uganda and Burundi in 2010 before and after al-Shabab carried out two “martyrdom operations” in Kampala in June of that year.[52] Before carrying out those attacks, al-Shabab’s al-Kataib Media Foundation released a video in which the unidentified narrator, who spoke impeccable English with a British accent and whose face was not shown, warned the Ugandan and, to a lesser extent, the Burundian people to pressure their governments to withdraw their forces from Somalia, where both militaries formed the backbone of the AMISOM force propping up the weak Somali TFG.[53]

Following the Kampala attacks, the insurgents released a follow-up video prominently featuring scenes from those attacks. What sounded like the same English-speaking narrator warned the Ugandan public that if the “lessons being taught” against their military forces inside Mogadishu were not clear enough, then perhaps only “lessons a little closer to home” would be the “only solution…You [the Ugandan public] will then pay a hefty price.”[54] An audio message from al-Shabab leader Godane in the same video portrayed the Kampala attacks as revenge for innocent Somali women, children, and elderly killed by AMISOM in Somalia.[55] In October 2011, Rage warned the Kenyan public to “consider carefully” the path their government was taking them down by intervening militarily in Somalia, a point he has since reiterated in audio statements regarding the Westgate Mall attack.[56]

Aware of the media frenzy surrounding the Westgate Mall attack, the HSM Press feed began  advertising in advance a forthcoming audio statement from Godane on the afternoon of September 24.[57] Godane’s statement was released the next day and distributed on pro-Shabab Somali news websites, jihadist forums, and on Twitter, first with a Somali language tweet and, soon after, two English language tweets with links to official English written and audio translations of the statement.[58] The audio translation was read by what sounded like the same individual, speaking with a British accent, who debuted in al-Shabab’s English language video productions during the summer of 2010. The release of written and audio English translations of Godane’s statement within hours of the release of the original demonstrated the group’s media savvy in capitalizing on and even feeding the worldwide media attention surrounding the attack.[59]

Dubbing the attack the “Badr Nairobi” in reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s first major battle in 624 AD, Godane eulogized the “martyrdom-seekers” who carried out the attack and stated that the operation was in response to Kenya’s military intervention inside Somalia.[60] The “success” of the attack, he said, once again showed the “power of faith, which “nothing can stand against,” revealing weaknesses in the Kenyan government, military, and police.[61] As he did to the Ugandan public following the Kampala bombings in 2010, Godane addressed the Kenyan public by telling them to leave Somalia. “You have entered into a war that is not yours and is against your national interests…you have voluntarily given up your security and economy and have lost many of your sons,” he said, arguing that because they elected their politicians, they bear the responsibility of “the massacres that are being perpetrated by your military in Kismayo and the neighboring regions.”[62]

Conclusion
The Westgate Mall attack has returned the beleaguered al-Shabab militant group into worldwide headlines. Wracked by internal divisions—most notably the public spat between al-Shabab’s senior leadership under Godane and dissidents such as Omar Hammami as well as former senior leaders within the group itself—al-Shabab was in need of relief. The attack on Westgate Mall provided the group with a media triumph that catapulted it back onto the public stage.

The long-term military significance of the attack is unknown at this time. While it is unlikely that it will result in significant military gains for al-Shabab on the ground in Somalia, it may lead to strategic gains for the group in the short-term, particularly if there is a heavy-handed response from the Kenyan government that targets the hundreds of thousands of Somalis living in Kenya.[63] The increased media attention may also prove to be a mixed blessing for al-Shabab. On the one hand, it renews its relevance in the eyes of potential supporters at home and abroad. On the other hand, it will intensify the drive by powerful international actors such as the African Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom to target al-Shabab’s leadership in the hopes of eliminating it as an international threat.

The attack may not lead to a Kenyan military withdrawal from Somalia, but it could be a harbinger of a continuing shift by al-Shabab back to asymmetric warfare. The group might carry out more attacks on soft targets, such as civilian centers and non-military sites, to bleed the fledgling Somali federal government and its African Union backers. Indeed, the insurgents began shifting back to their guerrilla roots in August 2011 when they withdrew from Mogadishu in the face of a mounting offensive by AMISOM, the TFG, and allied Somali militias. This followed al-Shabab’s failure to drive out AMISOM and the TFG from Mogadishu.

As al-Shabab’s battlefield capabilities continue to deteriorate, the strategic benefits of low-cost acts of terrorism and asymmetric warfare increase, and the group is likely to turn to such actions in a bid to remain a relevant force both inside and outside Somalia.

Christopher Anzalone is a Ph.D. student in the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University where he studies modern Muslim sociopolitical movements, contemporary jihadist movements, Shi`a Islam, and Islamist visual cultures. He is also an adjunct research fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University.

[1] Roopa Gogineni, “Nairobi Mall Death Toll Expected to Rise,” Voice of America, September 25, 2013.

[2] For more on the “spectacle” aspect of terrorism/anti-civilian violence, see Gerard Chaliand, Terrorism: From Popular Struggle to Media Spectacle (London: Saqi Books, 2001); Steven Livingston, The Terrorism Spectacle (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994). The media spectacle of violence is discussed in Douglas Kellner, “Media Propaganda and Spectacle in the War on Iraq: A Critique of U.S. Broadcasting Networks,” Cultural Studies: Critical Methodologies 4:3 (2004): pp. 329-338; Cynthia Carter, Violence and the Media (New York: Open University Press, 2003); Matthew Robert Kerbel, If It Bleeds, It Leads: An Anatomy of Television News (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001). For a theoretical discussion of the “political spectacle,” see Murray Edelman, Constructing the Political Spectacle (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Arie S. Soesilo and Philo S. Wasburn, “Constructing a Political Spectacle: American and Indonesian Media Accounts of the ‘Crisis in the Gulf,’” Sociological Quarterly 35:2 (1994): pp. 367-381.

[3] These include making allegations that Kenyan forces used chemical weapons during the siege and later blew up sections of the mall, burying scores of people, to hide their act.

[4] Looking at al-Shabab’s media operations from a historical perspective allows for a more detailed and contextualized analysis of continuities, shifts, and trends in its messaging, which is not possible if the group’s statements are examined in a vacuum.

[5] The Kenyan government has said that there were between 10 and 15 attackers, but the exact number remains unclear. See “Nairobi Attack: Kenya Forces Comb Westgate Site,” BBC, September 24, 2013.

[6] Daniel Howden, “Terror in Nairobi: The Full Story Behind al-Shabaab’s Mall Attack,” Guardian, October 4, 2013.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Peter Walker, “Kenyan Forces Begin ‘Major Assault’ to End Nairobi Mall Siege – as it Happened,” Guardian, September 23, 2013; Richard Norton-Taylor and Vikram Dodd, “Nairobi Attack: Israel Takes Lead Role in Advising Kenyan Forces,” Guardian, September 23, 2013; Geoffrey Mosoku, “Kenya Denies Involvement of Foreign Military,” The Standard [Nairobi], September 23, 2013.

[10] Kenya Defense Forces, tweet, September 22, 2013, available at www.twitter.com/kdfinfo/statuses/381877655227731968.

[11] Howden.

[12] Ibid. Stefan Smith and Peter Martell, “Kenyan President Announces End to Mall Bloodbath,” Agence France-Presse, September 25, 2013.

[13] Howden; Geoffrey York, “Kenyan Military Seeks Soldiers Who Looted Stores During Mall Attack,” Globe and Mail, October 3, 2013; Margaret Wahito, “Lenku Admits Looting at Westgate, Probe Continues,” Capital FM Radio [Nairobi], September 29, 2013; John Campbell, “Nairobi’s Westgate Mall Attack: Unanswered Questions,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 8, 2013.

[14] Gogineni; “Kenyan Mall Attack: 39 Still Missing, Says Red Cross,” Associated Press, September 30, 2013.

[15] Ramadhan Rajab, “23 People Still Missing Almost a Month after Westgate Attack,” The Star [Nairobi], October 15, 2013.

[16] “Kenya Military Names Westgate Mall Attack Suspects,” BBC, October 5, 2013.

[17] Ibid. Omar al-Nabhan was the nephew of the late Saleh al-Nabhan, an al-Qa`ida operative in East Africa who served as a military trainer for al-Shabab and was killed in a U.S. military raid in September 2009. For background information on Saleh al-Nabhan, see “Profile: Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan,” BBC, September 15, 2009.

[18] “Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene, and Umayr Identified as Kenya Mall Attackers,” news.com.au, October 6, 2013. The Muslim Youth Center’s (MYC) reported name change appeared in the latest report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, although the entire section on the MYC is redacted and listed as “strictly confidential.” Twitter and Tumblr accounts believed to be linked to the MYC, and which release statements in its name, still use the old name, not al-Hijra.

[19] Christopher Anzalone, “Kenya’s Muslim Youth Center and Al-Shabab’s East African Recruitment,” CTC Sentinel 5:10 (2012).

[20] Christopher Anzalone, “Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen’s Press Office Opens Twitter Account,” al-Wasat blog, December 8, 2011. Al-Shabab’s original English language Twitter account has since been closed, but the group’s media department appeared to open new accounts as previous ones were suspended by Twitter for “violations of service.” See, for example, Feisal Omar, “Al Shabaab’s Twitter Account Down after Hostage Threat,” Reuters, January 25, 2013.

[21] See, for example, Michelle Shepherd, “Tweeting War: Somalia’s Al Shabab Joins Twitter,” Toronto Star, December 8, 2011; Spencer Ackerman, “Somali Terrorists Join Twitter #Propaganda,” Wired, December 7, 2011; David Smith, “Al-Shabaab in War of Words with Kenyan Army on Twitter,” Guardian, December 13, 2011; Geoffrey York, “Al-Shabab Goes to War with Kenyan Army on Twitter,” Globe and Mail, January 11, 2012.

[22] The al-Shabab media operatives who run the “HSM Press” account spend a great deal of time and energy, measurable to some degree in a comparative analysis of the numbers of tweets on the subject, pushing forward their counternarrative to that of the Somali government, African Union, the United States, and other international actors. See the analytical data in Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, Shiraz Maher, and James Sheehan, Lights, Camera, Jihad: Al-Shabaab’s Western Media Strategy (London: The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, 2012), pp. 31-35.

[23] Propaganda messaging in English, a language more readily accessible to many in the Western news media, has in the past led to the inflation of the importance of some jihadist publications, such as Inspire magazine, and, some argue, personalities, such as the late radical Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al-`Awlaqi. See J.M. Berger, “Inspiration Inflation,” Foreign Policy, April 23, 2013; Erik Stier, “Is Anwar al-Awlaki’s Importance to Al Qaeda Overstated?” Christian Science Monitor, May 10, 2011; Gregory D. Johnsen, “A False Target in Yemen,” New York Times, November 19, 2010; Thomas Hegghammer, “The Case for Chasing al-Awlaki,” Foreign Policy, November 24, 2010.

[24] Howden.

[25] Ibid.

[26] These tweets were posted by the now-defunct @HSM_Press Twitter account, September 21-24, 2013. The text of the tweets has been saved by the author.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ali Mohamed Rage, “Mujaahidiintu Duulaan Aargoosi ah Ayay Ku qaadeen Kenya,” al-Shabab, September 21, 2013.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] See Qur’an 2:194.

[35] Rage, “Mujaahidiintu Duulaan Aargoosi ah Ayay Ku qaadeen Kenya.”

[36] “An Important Clarification regarding the Promotion by Al-Jazeera of False News about the Movement [al-Shabab],” al-Shabab, November 24, 2008.

[37] “Al-Kata’ib News Channel,” al-Shabab, July 27, 2010.

[38] The Burundian Bloodbath: Battle of Dayniile, al-Shabab, November 12, 2011; Under the Shade of Shari’ah, al-Shabab, July 1, 2012; Christopher Anzalone, “The Rapid Evolution of Al-Shabab’s Media and Insurgent ‘Journalism,’” Open Democracy, November 16, 2011.

[39] “Al-Shabab Showed Gruesome Social Media Savvy During Attack,” CBS News, September 24, 2013.

[40] Ibid. Cedric Barnes, a Somalia expert working for the International Crisis Group, noted this difference between al-Shabab’s English and Somali language media messaging regarding its assault on the Westgate Mall, but the story does not provide any specific examples of these differences.

[41] The Burundian Bloodbath: Battle of Dayniile; Mogadishu: Crusaders’ Graveyard, al-Shabab, July 30, 2010; Christopher Anzalone, “Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen Releases Statement & Information on Burundian AMISOM Soldiers Slain at Battle of Dayniile,” al-Wasat blog, December 12, 2011.

[42] HSM Press tweet, September 24, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Tom Whitehead, David Barrett, and Steven Swinford, “Woolwich Attack: Suspect Michael ‘Mujahid’ Adebolajo Led Away in Handcuffs at Fanatic’s Trial,” Telegraph, May 23, 2013.

[45] HSM Press tweet, September 24, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author. On October 17, al-Shabab’s media department released a new propaganda film, Woolwich Attack: It’s an Eye for an Eye, in Arabic and English versions, heralding Adebolajo and other “lone wolf mujahidin” who, when unable to become foreign fighters in places such as Somalia, have “fulfilled their duty of jihad” in their home countries.

[46] HSM Press tweets, September 25, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author. Also see Umberto Bacchi, “Nairobi Westgate Mall Siege: Al-Shabaab Accuses Kenyan Troops of Chemical Weapon Use,” International Business Times, September 25, 2013.

[47] HSM Press tweet, September 25, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author. Also see Afua Hirsch, “Kenya Mall Attack: Dozens More Bodies Believed Buried Under Rubble,” Guardian, September 26, 2013.

[48] Mike Pflanz, “Britain’s Shadowy ‘White Widow’ Linked to SEAL Team Target in Somalia,” Christian Science Monitor, October 8, 2013.

[49] HSM Press tweets, September 24, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author.

[50] HSM Press tweets, September 24, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author. Stating that they have “no interest” in harming women and children, the group claimed that it did everything “practically possible” to remove women and children from the mall.

[51] HSM Press tweets, September 24, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author.

[52] Anzalone, “The Rapid Evolution of Al-Shabab’s Media and Insurgent ‘Journalism.’”

[53] The African Crusaders: Fighting the West’s War, al-Shabab, June 27, 2010.

[54] Mogadishu: Crusaders’ Graveyard.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Rage, “Mujaahidiintu Duulaan Aargoosi ah Ayay Ku qaadeen Kenya,” al-Shabab, October 2011; Ali Mohamed Rage, “Statement of Shaykh Ali Dheere [Rage],” al-Shabab, September 24, 2013; Ali Mohamed Rage, “Mujaahidiintu Way Ufasaxanyihiin,” al-Shabab, September 22, 2013. The second statement, which is in Arabic, was advertised on the HSM Press Twitter account, first with an Arabic and then an English tweet.

[57] HSM Press tweet, September 24, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author.

[58] HSM Press tweets, September 25, 2013. This account has since been suspended by Twitter. The text of the tweets referenced has been saved by the author.

[59] It is possible that al-Shabab decided to produce an English audio translation of Godane’s statement to make it easier for television and radio outlets to play excerpts in their broadcasts.

[60] Ahmed Godane, “Badr Nairobi,” al-Shabab, September 25, 2013.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid.

[63] “Westgate Attack: MPs to Call for Refugee Camps to Close,” BBC, September 30, 2013; “Number of Somali Refugees in Horn of Africa Passes 1 Million Mark,” United Nations Refugee Agency, July 17, 2012.