Somalia hotel massacre: ‘Killing foreigners will grab headlines in New York Times’

A Somali government soldier holds his position during gunfire after a suicide bomb attack outside Nasahablood hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, June 25, 2016. © Feisal Omar
If terrorists kill Londoners or New Yorkers - or those who are close to Londoners or New Yorkers - then headlines blare throughout the North Atlantic, Gerald Horne, professor of History and African American Studies at Houston University, told RT.

A suicide car blast and a siege at the Nasahablood hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu carried out by the Al-Shabaab Islamist group on June 25, claiming the lives of at least 15 people.

Al Shabaab is an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia and operates mostly in the country's southern and central regions. The Islamist militant group is fighting to overthrow the Somali federal government.

RT: Somalia has been mired in an armed conflict with Islamist militants for two decades and the situation doesn't seem to be improving. Why is that?

Gerald Horne: You are correct. The situation is not improving at all. And like many of today’s problems this is a legacy of the Cold War. Recall that a few decades ago Somalia had a Socialist-oriented regime. But under the presidency of Jimmy Carter in Washington it was decided to try to move Somalia away from that posture in order to better confront neighboring Ethiopia, which was also perceived as having a Socialist-oriented regime. And that unleashed religious zealotry in Somalia. It led to the downfall of the administration of President Siad Barre and it led to the rise of Al-Shabaab, which is not only wreaking havoc in Somalia. But you may recall that just two days ago in the US city of Minneapolis a number of Somali nationals were convicted of supposedly deciding to unleash a reign of terror in Minnesota. [A federal jury found three Somali-Americans guilty of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State and commit murder outside the US – Editor]

Ayo Johnson, founder of Viewpoint Africa told RT: "They are soft targets, and usually Al-Shabaab tends to get a lot of leverage from them because eventually you have a lot of people who get caught up in it. It makes the news and above all sometimes politicians have been killed in such attacks and many foreigners have been found wounded…Similarly, Al-Shabaab attacks soft targets in Kenya. This is not the first time. We are seeing an Al-Shabaab movement that is increasingly becoming much more confident at a time when the African Union-led forces are not as confident as they used to be simply because the EU has cut funding to the operations. And to make matters worse, Uganda, which is one of the largest contingencies of the troops movement on the ground is already threatening, or already have plans, to move out next year."

RT: Muslims are observing the holy month of Ramadan right now. Is the timing of this attack connected?

GH: It is possible. Recall that the so-called Islamic State made a pronouncement just a few days ago before the onset of Ramadan encouraging those who are inspired by its message to unleash terror in the capitals of the North Atlantic countries. And therefore we saw that in Orlando, Florida, a man who was said to be inspired by ISIS killed 49 people in a gay bar. So, it would be wholly consistent with that particular approach if we were to discover that Al-Shabaab was similarly inspired to launch attacks consistent with what ISIS is pronouncing.

READ MORE: At least 15 killed in Al-Shabaab hotel attack in Somali capital

RT: Hotels are top targets for such attacks in the region. Why are foreigners being sought as victims?

GH: Obviously, what is happening is that Al-Shabaab is performing jiu-jitsu on the North Atlantic countries. That is to say because of racism and national chauvinism they recognize, that if you kill Somalis that doesn’t garner headlines in the New York Times or Washington Post or the London Times. However, if you kill Londoners or New Yorkers - or those who are close to Londoners or New Yorkers - then headlines blare throughout the North Atlantic. Obviously, there is a very serious message to glean from this state of affairs. 

RT: Al-Shabaab frequently attacks the capital and is suspected of this latest terrorism as well. Are we looking at one group or disparate sympathizers?

GH: That’s a very good question. As you know, the UN has suggested that the regime in neighboring Eritrea has been bolstering Al-Shabaab. It is no secret that many of the Gulf Arab states, particularly nationals of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are quite sympathetic to the aims and tendencies of Al-Shabaab. Therefore it seems to me that the responsibility for this attack should be laid at their doorstep as well.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.