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Al-Shabaab, group tied to al Qaeda, claims responsibility for mall massacre in Nairobi

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter,
Published On: Sep 23 2013 04:01:49 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 23 2013 04:51:12 PM CDT

The terror group claiming responsibility for a mall attack in Nairobi has been linked to al Qaeda.

The terror group claiming responsibility for a mall attack in Nairobi has been linked to al Qaeda. It's called Al-Shabab, an extremist Islamic terrorist group based in Somalia.

A local professor whose focus is African politics said the group may not be as strong as al Qaeda once was, but its goals are similar.

"Certainly a significant factor in Somalia. They control a significant portion of the land area if not the population in southern Somalia," said Christopher Herrick, an international studies and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based Islamic terrorist group claiming responsibility for the attack on the Kenyan Westgate Mall, does have affiliations with al Qaeda.

"Al-Shabab is enamored with Wahhabism, which is the Saudi form of Islam," Herrick said.

The group stormed the mall in Nairobi on Saturday, killing at least 62 people and holding others hostage.

Kenyan security forces said they have control of the mall. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration has been in touch with the Kenyan government.

"It represents the breadth of the challenge we face with the ruthless and completely reckless terrorists," Kerry said.

Al-Shabab said the attack on non-Muslins was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into Somalia.

Herrick said the group is made up of a multitude of nationalities, even some Americans, but Herrick said, at this point, it's unclear if Al-Shabab is fighting for a more African Islamic state or a worldwide Islamic doctrine, like al Qaeda.

"They are a force to be reckoned with. Whether they are an international force to be reckoned with like al Qaeda, whether they have control like al Qaeda had in terms of relationship with Taliban in Afghanistan, is open to question," Herrick said.

CBS reported court documents filed in New York allege the group is or was operating a research and development department aimed at producing chemical weapons.