On July 5, 2013, the U.S. State Department issued a Travel Warning that cautions Americans about about “potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya.”
On September 21, gunmen from the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terror group attacked the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall. The situation on the ground at the Nairobi mall remains in chaos.
It’s a completely atypical hostage scenario. In a normal hostage situation, authorities can effectively isolate the location and can then systematically begin to cut off water, power, air conditioning, and supplies. This is happening at a mall where ALL the stores were open — including a large grocery store — at the time of the shootings. This could mean that the terrorists can continue to resupply themselves. Perhaps even more significantly, the terrorists have insisted there was nothing to negotiate. Authorities felt that the longer they waited the higher the likelihood the hostages would simply be killed. Instead of trying to wait and save all the hostages, the authorities chose to go in and try and save as many as possible.
The mall itself was very popular with ex-pats and Western travelers, so its attack can be seen as an attack on Kenya’s economy. Currently, 20 percent of the country’s revenue comes from travel and tourism. It is expected that the U.S. and other countries will soon issue more severe travel alerts, which will have a significant impact on travel and tourism in the months and years to come.
Follow along as Peter reports live on the ground in Nairobi about what has happened and what is to come for Kenya.