Kenya Mall Attack Reminiscent of 2008 Mumbai Attacks

Sean LaBar /

Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo: George Mulala/Polaris/Newscom)

Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo: George Mulala/Polaris/Newscom)

Last month’s terrorist attacks at a shopping mall in Kenya brought back memories of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed nearly 170. The similarities between the attacks serve as a reminder that the U.S. needs to keep up its guard to prevent similar attacks on its soil.

In November 2008, the city of Mumbai found itself embroiled in a 60-hour-long terrorist attack when Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) militants from Pakistan entered the city and began a systematic slaughter of nearly 170 innocent bystanders.

Now five years later, the Westgate Mall attack feels a little like déjà vu. Begun on the morning of September 21, the attack lasted three days and was filled with dueling gun battles between the assailants from al-Shabaab and Kenya’s security forces. The attack claimed the lives of over 68 people.

As in the Mumbai attack, the assailants in Kenya belonged to a group linked to al-Qaeda. Heritage experts noted in a recent Issue Brief: “The Nairobi attack underscored al-Shabaab’s international role as an increasingly effective al-Qaeda affiliate deserving of the al-Qaeda brand.”

As demonstrated in Mumbai and now Kenya, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists have perfected the art of launching attacks against “soft” commercial institutions. Such success bodes ill for the United States going forward and points to the need of keeping our guard up. As the Heritage experts wrote:

The attack in Kenya should remind the U.S. that the fight against terrorism is not over and that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are still a formidable threat to the U.S. homeland. The U.S. should update its counterterrorism tools to prevent attacks such as this from occurring in the U.S.

Sean LaBar is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.