What’s the Connection Between Israel and the Kenyan Mall Attack?

How It Works
Sept. 22 2013 3:51 PM

What’s the Connection Between Israel and the Kenyan Mall Attack?

181528924
Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) arrive on September 22, 2013 at the Westgate mall in Nairobi.

Photo by SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

With news that Israeli advisors are helping Kenyan authorities formulate a strategy for ending the ongoing siege at a Nairobi shopping mall, readers might be wondering why, exactly, Israel is involved in all of this.

Despite the fact that the attack initially began near an Israeli-owned coffee shop within the mall and several Israelis escaped the assault, it doesn’t appear that this was connected to the attackers' motivations. “This time, the story is not about Israel,” a spokeswoman for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the New York Times.

Advertisement

The initial suspicion that there might have been an anti-Israel motivation here seems reasonable in light of recent history. In 2002, 15 people were killed when terrorists bombed an Israeli-owned hotel in the resort city of Mombassa. The attackers also tried unsuccessfully to shoot down an Israeli jet. A previously unknown group called the Army of Palestine took credit but al Qaeda involvement was widely suspected at the time.

Though Kenya severed diplomatic ties with Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and didn’t restore them until 1989, security cooperation has been growing between the two countries. In 2011, Israel pledged to provide security assistance to Kenya in its efforts to combat the Somali al-Shabab militants responsible for this weekend’s attack.  "Kenya's enemies are Israel's enemies,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time. "We have similar forces planning to bring us down," concurred then Kenyan Prime Minister Raila during a visit to Jerusalem. Shabab leaders have also issued direct threats against Israel, though it’s not clear if they have the capacity to carry out attacks there.

Israel’s involvement in Eastern Africa as a whole has been growing. Israel is also believed to have been behind the bombing of a weapons factory in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, last year. Netanyahu’s government has also sought to build ties with Kenya, Uganda, and newly-independent South Sudan. The AP reported last year that “Israel's Defense Ministry has given clearance for private Israeli security firms to operate in those nations, including some arms sales.” There were reports last month that Mossad was involved in investigating whether terrorism was involved in a fire at the Nairobi airport.

It seems quite possible that cooperation between the two countries may go beyond what’s been publicly reported.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Americans' Inexplicable Aversion to the 1990s
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.