Smoke rises from the Westgate Shopping Mall during the terrorist attack.
Somalia’s Al Shabab militia, a group with ties to al-Qaida, has waged a two-day assault on the Westgate Shopping Mall in the capital of Kenya. Ten to 15 terrorists entered the upscale shopping center Saturday and began killing patrons with grenades and guns. There were an estimated 1,000 people in the mall when the attack began; as of Monday about 70 had been killed, with more than 60 others left unaccounted for and as many as 200 wounded. Many still remain hostages at the hands of Al Shabab. Some escaped victims say the gunmen asked Muslims to identify themselves so they could be spared.
The Islamic extremists took to Twitter to communicate their motives for the ruthless attack, according to The Daily Dot:
Al Shabaab, the Somali-based, Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group deemed responsible, has been suspended from Twitter for violating the company’s terms of service after making “specific threats of violence against others.”
The account, @HSM-Press, was being used by the group to advertise and justify the attack as it began. It’s the latest in a series of Twitter accounts the propaganda arm of the group, “HSM Press Office,” has utilized. Each of Al Shabaab’s Twitter accounts have been shut down three times this year, mostly for talking about and encouraging the murder of its enemies on the platform.
In January, Twitter cancelled @HSMPress. The group used it to post photos of a French commando they killed and to threaten Kenyan hostages.
@HSMPress1 was shut down earlier this month after threatening to murder Somalia’s current president, who enjoys international support.
Other suspended accounts include @HSM_Press.
As @Support_Anon notes, the group has a number of current Twitter accounts, a kind of communications redundancy, built into their operations. These include@HSM_PressOffice, @HSM_Superstars, @HSMPress_arabic, and @HSM_PRESS2.
The rationale for the attack was the invasion of southern Somalia by the Kenyan military in 2011, which shut down most of the the group’s bases.
Among the tweets issued prior to the current account’s shutdown were “The Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar (infidels) inside their own turf” and “What Kenyans are witnessing at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military,” according to AFP.
Twitter has also been used to warn others as well as send updates regarding the progress made on ending the siege. Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku tweeted several messages in which he begged the Kenyan public and media to “remain calm” and “be more sensitive when they report” as the government tries to deal with the “delicate operation.” On Monday, Lenku used the social media site to inform the online world that “Our forces are in control of all the floors.”