Nairobi, Kenya - The September 21 mall attack by al-Qaida offshoot, Al Shabab, in Nairobi has sent shockwaves through the local Jewish community of about 600, causing Jewish leaders to put into place additional safety measures in what, before the attack, was considered to be an area where Jews and westerners could move about in relative safety.
JTA reports that, while no direct links to Israel have, to date, been cited by Al Shabab regarding the attack, local Jews can’t help but be reminded of past terrorist attacks in Kenya that have specifically targeted Israelis, namely the 2002 bombing of the Paradise Hotel in Mombassa and the missile attack on a Boeing 757 owned by the Israel-based Arkia airlines.
Since the Westagte Mall is owned by Israeli businessman Alex Trachtenberg, and contains several high-end Israeli-owned retail stores and restaurants, members of the local Jewish community cannot help but wonder whether the motives behind the Al Shabab attack may be more Israel-related than has been reported.
Zvi Mazel, former chief of the Africa Department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said, “The Mombassa attacks were clearly targeting Israelis, but according to what is known thus far, the Westgate action was not.”
Nevertheless, local Jews say that the Israeli link to the mall was public knowledge, and that additional security measures are necessary.