Colombia’s ELN rebels claim deadly police academy attack

Colombia‘s leftist ELN rebels claimed responsibility for the bombing of a police academy in Bogota that killed 20 people as well as the attacker and derailed peace talks being held in Cuba.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) said Thursday’s vehicle bombing was a reprisal attack after the government of President Ivan Duque failed to respect a unilateral ceasefire declared by the rebels over Christmas.

“The president did not respect the gesture of peace [and] his response was to carry out military attacks against us,” the group said in a statement on Monday on its website.

Specifically, ELN said Colombian troops bombed a camp on December 25.

“It is then very disproportionate that while the government is attacking us, we cannot respond in self-defence,” it said. “The operation carried out against these installations and troops is lawful within the law of war, there were no non-combatant victims.”

The attack was a major setback to two years of peace talks – first hosted by Ecuador and currently by Cuba – that failed to go beyond the exploratory stage before stalling when Duque took power in August 2018.

Future is peace?

ELN proposed “a political debate on these issues”, saying “the road of war is not the future of Colombia, it is peace”.

On Saturday, Colombia demanded that Cuba hand over ELN negotiators who were in Havana for peace talks. 

Duque announced he was reinstating arrest warrants for 10 ELN members who are part of the group’s delegation to the Cuba talks, and said he was revoking “the resolution creating the conditions that allow their stay in that country”.

ELN urged the government delegation to come back to the talks.

“President Duque … we remind you that the best thing for the country is to send your delegation back to the negotiating table, and to give continuity to the peace process,” the statement said. 

Protest march

Thousands of Colombians marched throughout the country on Sunday to denounce violence.

The huge crowd descended on Bogota’s iconic Plaza Bolivar while chanting slogans such as “down with the terrorists” and “no more violence”. They were wearing white clothes and waving white flags.

Colombia protests over deadliest attack in 16 years

Duque and his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, were among those at the march. 

“For me it is a very good signal that the country is united around a very important cause, which is to say no to violence and no to terrorism,” Santos told Al Jazeera. 

Yet there were clashes along the route as some students demanded the government keep the option open for peace negotiations with ELN.

“We can’t let the government instill fear and promote the return of war and militarisation,” said protester Julian Rodriguez.

“A negotiated peace is the only way out of this. We need the government to negotiate with the ELN.”  

Peace talks are aimed at ending more than five decades of insurgency by Marxist-inspired guerrillas.   

Colombia has experienced several years of relative calm since the 2016 peace accord signed by Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

With the landmark agreement turning the former rebels into a political party, the smaller ELN is considered the last active armed group in the country.

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque takes part in a rally against violence [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Kentucky congressman says it’s an ‘honor to represent’ Lincoln Memorial confrontation kids and that their parents should be ‘proud’ of their viral behavior

Kentucky Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District has taken to Twitter in an extraordinary defence of the students from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School, who were filmed on Friday surrounding and chanting at a Native American activist Nathan Phillips in Washington DC.

In what has quickly become an iconic image of a modern America divided, a teenager wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat smilingly stares just inches from the face of Phillips as the Vietnam veteran beats a drum and sings the “American Indian Movement” song.

The images have been shared worldwide and sparked intense debate, fury and abuse as social media users, politicians, commentators and punters offer their interpretation of the scene.

Few comments have been as systematically and staunchly supportive of the teenagers as those made Sunday night by the conservative lawmaker from Kentucky.

Massie tweeted that following his initial discomfort at seeing the video, he chose to hang back, weigh up the facts before offering his thoughts: “because the narrative did not match what I know to be the character of these students.”

Massie represents Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District which stretches across Northern Kentucky and 280 miles of the Ohio River, including Covington.

The boys, quickly identified as Covington Catholic High School students had traveled from Kentucky to attend the March for Life, an annual anti-abortion demonstration at the capitol.

March for Life is something of a Covington tradition

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 22: Covington Catholic High School Freshman Tommy Smith of Cincinnati, Ohio, center, screams at a pro-choice protesters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual pro-life anti-abortion ‘March for Life’ to protest the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the case Roe v. Wade on January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Wearing “Make America Great Again” hats the boys are recorded from several angles surrounding a small group of protestors in front of the Lincoln memorial.

In several videos posted to social media, a smirking boy stands face-to-face with a protestors as the large group giggles, jeers, and clap.

The UK Daily Mail also reports that a Covington student has since claimed that Phillips has a history of racial vilification claims and forced his way into their “cheer circle” as a publicity stunt.

On Sunday, Massie describes the “honorable and tolerant” students as the victims.

“The honorable and tolerant students of Covington Catholic School came to DC to advocate for the unborn and to learn about our nation’s Capitol,” he wrote. “What they got was a brutal lesson in the unjust court of public opinion and social media mobs.”

“I’ve now watched over an hour of other videos from 4 different cameras of the incident in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I urge everyone to watch the other videos before passing judgement.”

“Would you have remained that composed at that age under those circumstances?” Massie rhetorically asks, without detailing the sources of the brutality.

Separate video of the incident showed a small group of black protesters arguing with some of the crowd members before Phillips intervenes.

“In the face of racist and homosexual slurs, the young boys refused to reciprocate or disrespect anyone. Even when taunted by homophobic bigots, which was obviously bewildering to them, they insulted no one.”

Massie concludes by accusing the media of removing the context “of everything that was going on.”

“Proud, not ashamed.”

Members of an indigenous bikers group listen to a woman giving them directions to help with security during the Indigenous People’s March on the National Mall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2019.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Read More: Video shows teenagers in ‘MAGA’ hats mocking and harassing Native American protestors at Indigenous Peoples March

Despite the widespread and often visceral condemnation of the incident, Massie encourages the responsible parents and mentors of the boys – curiously absent during the incident – to be appreciative and gratified by their charges and their behavior.

“Parents and mentors of these boys should be proud, not ashamed, of their kids’ behavior. It is my honor to represent them.”

By contrast, the school, in a statement condemned the actions of its students “towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general.””We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion,” the school added in a statement on its website.

INSIDER reports that a mother of one of the kids who wrote to Heavy.com said that the boys were provoked by a group of men who had been protesting before the Native American group arrived.

“Did you hear the names of the people were calling these boys? It was shameful. Did you witness the black Muslims yelling profanities and video taping to get something to further your narrative of hatred??” the woman wrote, according to Heavy.com.

The protesters have been identified as members of a group known as Black Hebrew Israelites, which is unrelated to Islam.

Last week in an interview with Fox Business Channel, Massie defended US Rep. Steve King following a national backlash regarding King’s widely panned comments on white supremacy.

“In my presence, he’s never said anything racist and so I’m not ready to censure a man based on a New York Times article,” Massie said.

Massie: “the narrative did not match what I know to be the character of these students.”

Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) watches a live downlink with American astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) Navy Commander G. Reid Wiseman (L) and Steven Swanson at the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 24, 2014.
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Massie is a staunch social conservative and deficit hawk who often calls for government spending cuts. He was first elected to Congress in 2012.

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Attacks in Thailand’s deep south: Who, why and what’s next?

Bangkok, Thailand – In the latest of a series of fatal attacks in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, a group of assault rifle-wielding attackers on Friday stormed a Buddhist temple, killing two monks and wounding two others.

The evening assault took place at Wat Rattananupab temple in Su Ngai Padi district of Narathiwat province, an area located in the heart of Thailand’s deep south where ethnic Malay separatists have been waging an armed campaign for independence for decades.

According to local reports, the attacker rolled up on motorcycles spraying the entrance to the temple before sprinting inside to target the Buddhist monks up close.

Among those killed was the temple’s abbot, Sawang Vethmaha, also known as Phra Khru Prachote.

A police manhunt for the attackers in under way, but Lieutenant General Pornsak Poolsawat, the army commander, has asked for more security at temples scattered throughout the region.

Authorities have also encouraged all monks in the southern province to stay inside their temples following the shooting, which capped a day of bombings across the area that left five soldiers wounded.

Addressing the assault on the Buddhist temple, Government Spokesperson Buddhipongse Punnakanta said that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha “denounced such a brazen attack and instructed officials to investigate and find the assailants to punish them.”

 

‘War crime’

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has continued to condemn the violence, particularly the most active fundamentalist group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), for repeatedly targeting civilians and places of worship.

“The ghastly attack on Buddhist monks by insurgents in Thailand’s deep south is morally reprehensible and a war crime, and those responsible should be held to account,” Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, said.

“The insurgents’ 15-year campaign of deliberately attacking Buddhist and Muslim civilians can’t be justified.”

But in Thailand’s deep south, these kinds of attacks are not uncommon, with hundreds of violent incidents coming out of the restive region last year.

Earlier this month, on January 8, separatists orchestrated two different assaults on the same day.

The first attack was aimed at a school and a hospital, wounding a 12-year-old student and a soldier standing guard at the school.

The second assault occurred when a car bomb rocked Songkhla province’s Thepa district, wounding a police medic.

A monk looks at bullet holes on the site of Friday’s attack [Surapan Boonthanom/Reuters]

What’s behind this latest wave of attacks?

Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand in HRW’s Asia division, told Al Jazeera the latest burst of violence is likely a response to a recent assassination of a purported BRN leader. Doloh Sarai, 62, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen while riding home on a motorcycle in Narathiwat’s Rue Soh district.

“Thai authorities alleged that he was a BRN leader,” Phasuk said, adding that Sarai had previously been arrested on security charges.

The military has developed tactics that some are criticising as excessively punitive. Over the years, rights groups such as HRW have called against extrajudicial killings of suspected fighters and encouraged security responses that would reduce collateral damage. 

It’s also becoming clear that fighters in the mainly-Muslim south are losing patience with Thailand’s military government, according to Zach Abuza, a specialist on the conflict and professor at National War College in Washington, DC.

He said the BRN is frustrated that Thailand’s military government has refused to make any compromises, particularly after progress in 2013 when the last democratically elected government appeared to be willing to finally grant them concessions, including language reforms and general amnesties.

“The army said that the talks broke down because of the political protests and stasis that began in the fall of 2013, leading to the May 2014 coup, but the reality is the army had already put the kibosh on the talks,” Abuza told Al Jazeera.

“The junta has kept the talks open, but they do not negotiate in earnest.”

What’s likely to happen next?

Deep South Watch, a widely respected monitoring group that tracks separatism-related attacks coming out of the region, documented 548 incidents of violence that resulted in 218 deaths last year.

The figure was actually lower compared with previous years, but the latest bout of violence, coupled with the impasse in negotiations, has deepened concerns that the situation could deteriorate in the coming months.

Earlier this month, the BRN released a statement vowing to “keep fighting”, declaring they would ramp up attacks and attempt to recruit more members to join their struggle.

The military and local police are bracing for more attacks raising security measures in preparation.

“The Thai state can help break this vicious cycle of deadly retaliation by ending the use of extrajudicial tactics in counterinsurgency operations and hold abusive troops accountable for their crimes,” Phasuk said.

The conflict has killed about 7,000 people since 2004, according to Deep South Watch.

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2020 Democrats rejected Trump’s latest ‘compromise’ to end the shutdown — here’s what they had to say

President Trump’s latest offer to end the shutdown wasn’t received well by Democratic politicians who are eyeing a 2020 White House bid.

Democrats this weekend roundly rejected Trump’s proposal, which would extend protection for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers, in exchange for funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border. Trump forced a government shutdown in late December to pressure Congress into approving the wall funding.

Although the White House touted Trump’s offer as a compromise, many Democrats accused him of using Dreamers as political pawns, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put it.

“Offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking,” Schumer said on Saturday. “There’s only way out: open up the government, Mr. President, and then Democrats and Republicans can have a civil discussion and come up with bipartisan solutions.”

Read more: Trump offered Democrats a limited immigration ‘compromise’ to end the shutdown. Democrats say it’s a ‘hostage taking.’

Immigration is sure to be one of the most pivotal issues in the 2020 election, and several Democrats who have expressed interest in a presidential bid offered their opinions of Trump’s attempt at a deal.

Here’s what the Democrats had to say:

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand:

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro:

California Sen. Kamala Harris:

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker:

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Meanwhile, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard blamed both the White House and Democrats for refusing to compromise on a deal:

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Brexit: After humiliating defeat, Theresa May to present plan B

London – British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Monday tell parliament how she plans to proceed with Brexit after MPs on Tuesday roundly rejected her proposed deal for the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.

With fewer than 70 days to go until Brexit, scheduled to take place on March 29, May will share a plan B with MPs.

But some opposition politicians who met with May last week as she scrambled for cross-party consensus said the leader was in no mood to compromise.

The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas told the BBC: “I asked her what she would be willing to potentially change and I got no answer.

“She’s blackmailing MPs hoping to run down the clock by trying to force them to accept her deal because that’s better than crashing out with no deal.”

May’s deal was defeated in parliament on January 15, with 432 MPs voting against it and just 202 for.

On January 16, May survived a confidence vote launched by the opposition.

On Monday, she is expected to discuss one of the central Brexit issues – the Irish backstop. British media reported late on Sunday that she might suggest dropping the safety net provision to appease critics.

Within the withdrawal agreement, the backstop prevents a hard border being erected between Northern Ireland, a constituent part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, if a trade deal hasn’t been agreed between the EU and the UK by the end of the transition period.

Under the terms of the agreement, the whole of the UK will remain in a customs union in relation to trade in goods with the EU “unless and until” the bloc agrees there is no prospect of a return to a hard border.

There is still a huge amount of uncertainty, but this week will be an opportunity for MPs to start showing their colours.

Maddy Thimont Jack, a researcher at the Institute for Government in London

Oliver Patel, research associate at the University College London European Institute, said: “I am not really holding my breath for much clarity on the direction of travel – there is no clear indication of a major change in policy by Theresa May, and legally it is quite ambiguous what the content of this statement has to be.”

Her statement will fulfil obligations under the EU Withdrawal Act that require the prime minister to tell parliament what she would do after it rejected the deal she negotiated with Brussels.

In principle she does not have to be precise – but May is under huge political pressure to flesh out her strategy as MPs gear up to propose their own alternatives to her vision of Brexit.

Parliament will debate and vote on her tweaked proposal on January 29.

Political wrangling

May’s comments on Monday will set the scene for wrangling that will determine the country’s direction.

Maddy Thimont Jack, a researcher at the Institute for Government in London, said: “May‘s statement will influence what MPs decide to do when it comes to voting on those amendments on January 29. So the content of her statement is going to be important for influencing how MPs will vote. 

“There is still a huge amount of uncertainty, but this week will be an opportunity for MPs to start showing their colours.”

British media has reported that several MPs were attempting to take control of Brexit.

One strategy being pursued by former Conservative minister Nick Boles would make it legally impossible for the UK to leave the EU without a deal – which some economists warn would be disastrous – to enable fresh talks with Brussels.

Another involving Labour’s Yvette Cooper seeks to delay Brexit to allow for further negotiations with Europe.

And a plan backed by Conservative Dominic Grieve demands MPs are able to debate Brexit issues before they are set in stone.

The prime minister’s priority is to build support for a revised version of her rejected deal, meaning she could adopt a delicate balancing act to appeal both to her own and opposition MPs – while maintaining the “red lines” she set for Brexit talks with the EU two years ago.

David Phinnemore, professor of European Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Clearly her position, her red lines, the withdrawal agreement, and the political declaration on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, only command the support of a third of MPs.

“So she has got to make some concessions to others – and she has got to look to the opposition.”

Cross-party talks

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to meet May for talks last week, demanding she first ruled out any prospect of a “no deal” Brexit, saying: “With no deal on the table, the prime minister will enter into phoney talks just to run down the clock.”

In a letter to Corbyn, May said this was an “impossible” precondition for participating in talks “because it is not within the government’s power to rule out ‘no deal’.”

Phinnemore said it was essential for May to get Labour on board if she wished to make progress, but there were no signs yet that there had been “meaningful discussion”.

“In some respects the PM and Corbyn are dancing around each other. He is playing to get a general election, but is obviously in a difficult position himself because he is being very insistent on wanting to ensure that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is taken off the table before any discussion takes place.

“But he wants to make this as painful as possible for the prime minister before he budges.”

Professor Anand Menon, director of the The UK in a Changing Europe academic think-tank, said that May’s refusal to compromise on her own “red lines” made cross-party consultation meaningless. 

He said: “What the prime minister specialises in doing is taking options off the table. That’s fine if you have got a majority of 150, but at this stage it’s just a bit thick.”

Patel agreed, questioning why May had refused so rigidly to consider compromising on “second-tier” issues. 

“The fact that they are not willing to move on things like staying in a customs union with the EU suggests to me that these aren’t really proper cross-party talks,” he said.

What next?

While Monday’s statement could spawn a flurry of debates and procedural tactics to change the direction of travel on Brexit, senior parliamentarians want the government to call a formal series of “indicative votes” on options facing the country. 

These would determine how much support there was for potential outcomes – including a modified version of May’s deal, no deal, or even a second referendum that could halt Brexit entirely – as well as other alternatives. 

It remained to be seen whether or when May would return to parliament with concessions from the EU that made her own deal more palatable to MPs.

“She is not going to get anything because the EU don’t want to waste political capital on her as they don’t think she can get a revised deal through parliament,” said Menon.

However, Phinnemore added that the EU could move on the political declaration outlining the terms of Britain’s future relationship.

“Where the EU has definitely signalled there is space to make concessions or to change the language is in the political declaration on the future relationship – and that now seems to be the focus of discussions between May and opposition parties.”

Anti-Brexit and pro-Brexit protesters argue outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in London, Britain, January 15, 2019 [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

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A Harley-Davidson executive reveals the biggest opportunity for its new electric motorcycle

Harley-Davidson is preparing to release its first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, in August. The company hopes the bike will appeal to urban consumers and present a low barrier of entry for people new to motorcycles, Marc McAllister, Harley-Davidson’s vice president of product portfolio, said in an interview with Business Insider.

“EV lends itself extremely well to growing the next generation of riders when you think of its ease of entry and its ease of use for non-motorcyclists,” he said.

Read more: A former Harley-Davidson executive is attempting one of the biggest challenges in the business — establish a new motorcycle brand in the US

While gas-powered motorcycles require drivers to shift gears, a process that can be difficult to learn for new riders, the LiveWire’s electric motor eliminates the need for gear-shifting; riders need only to twist the throttle to make the LiveWire accelerate. The motorcycle will also feature ride modes that can be tailored to the owner’s level of experience. An inexperienced owner can opt to have the vehicle’s maximum power output reduced, for example.

“It’s less intimidating to jump on and learn how to ride,” McAllister said.

The LiveWire will also be nimbler and more agile than Harley-Davidson’s current offerings, McAllister said, another benefit for urban riders. Appealing to urban consumers is a priority for Harley-Davidson due to the global trend toward urbanization, but the company’s gas-powered motorcycles are less suited to urban riders than the LiveWire due to their size and riding styles, McAllister said.

“Getting great at delivering urban riding experiences is something that we see the future needing us to do.”

The LiveWire is tailored to urban riders in part by necessity. Harley-Davidson says the LiveWire will have a range of around 110 miles, which is fine for many commutes, but could make road trips difficult.

“[The LiveWire] lends itself to an urban usage because you’re going to end up at home,” McAllister said. For “most people’s normal usage, this vehicle has more than enough range.”

For riders who need to charge away from home, Harley-Davidson dealers that sell the LiveWire will have fast-charging stations available once the vehicle is released. Around 150 dealers will sell the LiveWire at first, and the number of charging stations will expand with the number of dealers that carry the vehicle.

Starting at just under $30,000, the LiveWire is priced at the high end of Harley-Davidson’s offerings, but McAllister suggested the LiveWire will be among the most expensive electric motorcycles the company will offer in the coming years, the most affordable of which will begin at “a few thousand dollars.”

McAllister declined to say if Harley-Davidson planned to make a specific percentage of its portfolio electric in the coming decades, but the company said in a 2018 investor presentation that it plans to introduce at least two more electric motorcycles by the end of 2022.

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Kenya hotel attack: ‘Painful and traumatising’

On a windy Saturday afternoon, Mohamud Yassin is meeting two workmates in a quiet, posh Nairobi restaurant. Wearing black sunglasses and a knee-length blue thobe, he exchanges greetings with his colleagues with a smile on his face.

Despite his cool demeanour, Yassin is grieving.

Three days before, five armed al-Shabab gunmen stormed Nairobi’s 14 Riverside complex killing 21 people. Two of them – Abdalla, 33, and Feisal, 31 – worked with Yassin at Adam Smith International, a United Kingdom-based company.

“It was a normal day,” Yassin says. “As usual, my wife dropped me at the office located in the 14 Riverside compound. I went in and greeted my coworkers, including Abdalla and Feisal,” Yassin, 36, recalls.

“At around 14:25, we heard explosions followed by gunshots. I immediately knew that we were under attack by al-Shabab. I have worked in Somalia for several years hence I am familiar with the group’s attacking tactics,” he adds.

Yassin and some of his colleagues managed to escape through a back route. Once out, they “could not account for Feisal and Abdalla who had gone out for lunch a few minutes before the attack commenced,” he said.

The al-Shabab fighters began the attack with an explosion near cars at the entrance of the complex and a suicide bomber detonating in the lobby of the hotel. The gunmen then entered the complex and started firing.

‘I will overcome’

Yassin and many other survivors remained outside the complex during the 20-hour siege, waiting to hear if friends and workmates were alive.

“We were all shocked to hear that 21 lives were lost, including my two dear friends. It is still painful to come to terms with what happened,” said Yassin.

“I now feel what many victims go through when they lose loved ones to such attacks. It’s painful and traumatising,” he said.

“I will overcome and work twice as hard as a tribute to my two departed friends.”

He hopes there won’t be another attack like it.

In a televised address, Kenya‘s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said, “Multiple security efforts are under way to disrupt and defeat any terrorist attack. We are on high alert and shall remain so. All visitors and Kenyans are safe in Kenya.”

This is not the first time the east African nation has been attacked. In August 1998, the al-Qaeda bombed the US embassy in the central Nairobi, killing more than 200 people and wounding thousands.  

In September 2013, al-Shabab gunmen attacked the capital’s high-end Westgate shopping mall in a three-day siege that killed 67 people.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has launched a number of other attacks across the country in recent years; targeting churches and setting up landmines along the Kenya-Somalia border.

In 2015, the gunmen killed 147 students at Garissa University: the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the 1998 US embassy bombing.

Tracy Wanjiru, 28, survived both the attacks at Westgate shopping mall and Tuesday’s 14 Riverside attacks.

“Five years ago, I narrowly escaped the Westgate ordeal. I had moved on and never knew such a thing will ever happen again to me,” Wanjiru told Al Jazeera.

“I first heard the explosions and went out to check what it was. I saw human body parts flying all over the compound. I instantly knew that it was a suicide explosion after seeing a leg falling to the ground,” said Wanjiru.  

The mother of one, who manages a salon and spa at the complex, was rescued by Kenyan security forces after hiding in her office with colleagues.

Just when the country was enjoying peace, these gunmen came and dismantled everything, Wanjiru said.

Kenyan troops in Somalia

In October 2011, Kenyan Defence Forces crossed into Somalia in pursuit of al-Shabab gunmen who had launched a series of attacks on aid workers and tourists months before.

The troops joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union and supported by the United Nations Security Council.

After that incursion, al-Shabab vowed to continue launching attacks in Kenya.

Al-Shabab said the attack on 14 Riverside was in retaliation for US President Donald Trump‘s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

The group is trying to prove its relevance in the wake of the US air attacks that have killed a number of its leaders in Somalia, said Tabitha Mwangi, a terrorism research associate at Nairobi’s Centre for International and Security Affairs.

“The group is trying to send a message through the 14 Riverside attack that it is strong and resilient despite losing most of its territory in Somalia,” Mwangi told Al Jazeera.

Mwengi advises Kenyan authorities to train all of its security agencies “on what to do in a suicide attack scenario instead of only relying on special operations units”, including “training them on to identify potential suicide attackers”.

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