U.S. Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House intelligence committee, said he’s worried that the terrorist group that killed at least 59 people in a Nairobi shopping mall will attack in the U.S.
The Somalia-based al-Shabaab Islamist militant group is one of the only al-Qaeda affiliates that has actively recruited in the U.S., King said today on ABC’s “This Week.” The group has trained at least 40 or 50 Somali-Americans, he said.
“The concern would be if any of those have come back to the United States and would use those abilities here,” said King, of New York. King said he was briefed on the Nairobi attack and compared it with the 2011 terrorist attack in Mumbai.
There are probably 15 to 20 Somali-Americans still active in al-Shabaab, whose full name means Mujahedeen Youth Movement in Arabic, King said. The group, which the U.S. designated as a terrorist organization in 2008, has been fighting Somalia’s government since at least 2006 to establish an Islamic state and impose Shariah law in the Horn of Africa nation.
King said he didn’t know if any Somali-Americans were active in the shooting rampage at the Westgate mall in Westlands, 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) northwest of Nairobi’s city center. Yesterday’s incident was the deadliest attack in Kenya since 213 died in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in downtown Nairobi.
“I would assume that the FBI and local law enforcement are looking into those Somalia-American communities today if any leads or indicators using all their sources and resources to make sure there’s no follow-up attempt here in the United States,” King said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has “had ongoing dialogue with Somali American community here in the U.S. for years,” Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the Nairobi mall attack is another indication that “soft targets is where al-Qaeda is going, and they’re not on the decline, they’re on the rise.”