Cover Story Overview

The Nairobi Attack and Al-Shabab’s Media Strategy
By Christopher Anzalone

After carrying out a bold attack inside the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, the Somali militant group al-Shabab succeeded in recapturing the media spotlight. This was in large part due to the nature of the attack, its duration, the difficulty in resecuring the mall, the number of casualties, and al-Shabab’s aggressive media campaign during and immediately after the attack. From al-Shabab’s perspective, the attack on Westgate Mall was a media triumph, particularly coming in the midst of a growing rift among jihadists both inside and outside Somalia. The attack also followed a year in which al-Shabab lost control of significant amounts of territory in Somalia. This article examines al-Shabab’s media strategy during and immediately after the Westgate Mall attack. It finds that al-Shabab, despite facing increased political and military setbacks, remains adept at executing audacious attacks designed to attract the maximum amount of media attention.

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