Kenya says gunmen are killed in hotel attack; 14 victims die
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
Wednesday, January 16
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — All the gunmen who staged a deadly attack on a luxury hotel and shopping complex in Nairobi were killed, Kenya’s president said Wednesday, declaring an end to the brazen, overnight siege that underscored the ability of al-Shabab extremists to strike despite military setbacks.
Fourteen “innocent lives” were lost in the attack that began on Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation.
“We will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act,” Kenyatta vowed in announcing that the all-night operation by security forces to retake the DusitD2 complex was over.
Security footage showed at least four heavily armed men in military-style garb took part in the attack, an assault marked by explosions and heavy gunfire. Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved, but “all the terrorists have been eliminated.”
Al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility. The Islamic extremist group also carried out the 2013 attack at Nairobi’s nearby Westgate Mall that killed 67 people, and an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that claimed 147 lives, mostly students.
While U.S. air strikes and African Union forces have degraded the group’s ability to operate, it is still capable of carrying out spectacular attacks in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s campaign against it in Somalia.
The attacks in Kenya’s capital appear designed to inflict maximum damage to the country’s image of stability and its tourism industry, an important source of revenue.
The government said late Tuesday that buildings were secure. However, gunfire continued into Wednesday morning, and dozens of trapped people were rescued overnight. Several loud booms were heard Wednesday as teams sought to clear the complex of booby traps and other explosives.
Kenyatta’s announcement that the security operation was complete came about 20 hours after the first reports of the attack.
The Kenyan Red Cross said about 50 people were unaccounted for. But many of those were believed not to have been in the complex during the attack.
Ken Njoroge, CEO of a company in the DustiD2 complex that offers mobile banking services, said he was unable to locate several employees.
“It’s very difficult for the families because the passage of time only makes the problem bigger,” he said.
Most of the victims were believed to be Kenyan, though an American and a Briton were among the dead. San Francisco-based I-DEV International confirmed that the American was Jason Spindler, the company’s co-founder and managing director.
Jason Spindler’s father, Joseph, said his son worked with international companies to form business partnerships in Kenya that would boost local economies.
A man who gave only his first name, Davis, described how he had escaped with colleagues during the attack by fleeing down a fire escape.
“It’s a traumatic experience. It shakes you,” he said. Still, Davis said he was impressed by the “inner strength” and compassion of people who helped each other in the midst of danger.
His own thoughts, he said, were: “Get people out and get out yourself. That’s it.”
Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
AP Explains: Who are al-Shabab attackers of Kenya hotel?
By ANDREW MELDRUM
Wednesday, January 16
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The overnight attack on a hotel complex in Nairobi that left 14 dead was quickly claimed by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has targeted Kenya with several devastating assaults in recent years, leaving hundreds dead. Here’s a look at the group which has been called the deadliest in Africa:
WHAT IS AL-SHABAB?
Al-Shabab, meaning “the youth” in Arabic, emerged in neighboring Somalia more than a decade ago as the chaotic Horn of Africa country was deep in warlord-led fighting. The extremist group, linked to al-Qaida, has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Somalia based on Shariah law. Its members are mostly Somalis but include many foreign fighters. Recently al-Shabab has fought a splinter group of fighters who have claimed allegiance to the Islamic State organization.
Al-Shabab is fighting Somalia’s fragile central government, which is supported by a multi-national African Union force that expects to pull out in the next few years and leave security to Somalia’s military. The extremists once controlled large parts of Somalia, including most of Mogadishu, the capital, but a concerted effort by the AU and Somali forces in 2015 pushed al-Shabab out of most urban centers. The group still operates in large swathes of rural Somalia and mounts violent suicide attacks on high-profile targets such as hotels and checkpoints in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab is blamed for Somalia’s deadliest attack, a massive truck bomb in Mogadishu in 2017 that killed well over 500 people.
WHY DOES AL-SHABAB ATTACK KENYA?
Al-Shabab has vowed retribution after neighboring Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 to battle the extremists. The Kenyans’ deployment came after al-Shabab kidnapped tourists in Kenya’s popular Lamu resort area on the Indian Ocean near the Somali border, a blow to the lucrative tourist industry.
Tuesday’s violence came three years to the day after al-Shabab attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.
Al-Shabab has staged several attacks inside Kenya, including the 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in which 67 people were killed and the 2015 attack on Garissa University in which 147 people, mostly students, were killed. The extremists have also targeted schools and bus transport near the porous border with Somalia, at times singling out Christians.
This latest attack occurred a short distance from Westgate Mall and again appeared to target wealthy Kenyans and expatriates.
ARE U.S. AIRSTRIKES WEAKENING AL-SHABAB?
Shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump took office in early 2017, he vowed to step up military action against al-Shabab. Last year the U.S. carried out nearly 50 airstrikes, some targeting top extremist leaders. The airstrikes may pressure al-Shabab to stay on the move, but the extremists are still able to renew their ranks.
Al-Shabab continues to operate in rural areas across Somalia, enriching itself with a widespread system of “taxation” on travelers and cargo. It now competes with the new IS-linked fighters in extorting Somali businesses.
The latest Nairobi attack used “almost identical tactics” to al-Shabab’s frequent attacks on hotels in Mogadishu, said Matt Bryden of Sahan Research, an expert on the extremists. The airstrikes hamper the group but have not “seriously degraded al-Shabab’s capability to mount strikes either inside or outside Somalia,” Bryden said. Airstrikes alone cannot defeat the extremists, he said, and must be combined with more ground-based attacks as well as a non-military campaign to win over residents of extremist-held areas.
Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
Kenya’s deadly hotel attack: A timeline of how it occurred
By CARA ANNA
Wednesday, January 16
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — It began with cars exploding and several armed young men, wrapped in ammunition belts, sauntering onto the scene. It was declared over nearly 20 hours later with at least 14 people killed, 700 people evacuated and the Islamic extremist attackers “eliminated.” Overnight, scores of frightened people hid in washrooms, offices and elsewhere as gunfire popped and security forces hunted the gunmen. Here’s a rough timeline of what occurred in the deadly attack on a luxury hotel complex in Kenya’s capital.
Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Reports begin to spread of an explosion and gunfire at the Riverside Drive complex, which includes a hotel, shops, restaurants and offices in Nairobi’s upscale Westlands neighborhood. Several cars are ablaze in a parking lot as security forces stream in and people run or are carried from the scene. Police quickly call it a terror attack.
Plainclothes police with guns drawn hurry from shop to shop to look for trapped civilians and an unknown number of attackers. A black plume of smoke rises from the scene. Sporadic gunfire continues.
The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab claims responsibility and says its members are still fighting inside. Survivors rushing from the scene, some in tears, report seeing bodies.
Kenya’s national police chief says special forces are trying to flush out the attackers and look forward to “bringing the situation to normalcy in the shortest time possible.” Kenyans watch the police response closely after officers took hours to respond to a deadly attack on the nearby Westgate Mall in 2013.
A Kenyan police officer among the first responders says “there was no time to count the dead,” with bodies seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs. Gunfire continues.
Kenya’s national police chief gives the first official details of the attack, saying it began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank while a suicide bomber blew up in the hotel lobby, severely wounding bystanders. He calls the operation “still ongoing.”
Kenya’s interior minister says all buildings have been secured and security forces are in the final stages of “mopping up.” There is still no official toll of dead or wounded.
Kenya’s Citizen TV airs what it calls surveillance footage that shows four attackers, young men in ammunition bandoliers, splitting up as they calmly walk across an outdoor area of the complex.
Wednesday, 1 a.m.
Some family members say loved ones are still trapped inside even after Kenyan authorities called all buildings secure. One woman says her brother is hiding with over 10 other people.
A Kenyan police officer says 15 bodies have been taken to the morgue. Anguished family and friends gather there.
Kenya’s interior ministry says “no further threat to the public exists” and that civilians who had been “secured” in one building have been safely evacuated.
Another explosion and gunfire are heard, shortly after scores of survivors who had still been holed up in part of the complex are freed. They reunite with relieved friends and family and recount a long night of cowering in hiding places while listening to nearby gunfire.
Bursts of gunfire are still heard from the complex.
Kenya president says 14 “innocent people” are dead and declares the attack over, saying all the terrorists have been eliminated.”
A new blast is heard at the complex, 24 hours the attack began. Witnesses say security forces are conducting a painstaking sweep for any explosives the attackers left behind in a final attempt at carnage.
Barr seeks to assure senators he won’t be a Trump loyalist
By ERIC TUCKER and MICHAEL BALSAMO
Wednesday, January 16
WASHINGTON (AP) — Vowing “I will not be bullied,” President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general asserted independence from the White House, saying he believed that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, that the special counsel investigation shadowing Trump is not a witch hunt and that his predecessor was right to recuse himself from the probe.
The comments by William Barr at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday pointedly departed from Trump’s own views and underscored Barr’s efforts to reassure Democrats that he will not be a loyalist to a president who has appeared to demand it from law enforcement. He also repeatedly sought to assuage concerns that he might disturb or upend special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as it reaches its final stages.
Some Democrats are concerned about that very possibility, citing a memo Barr wrote to the Justice Department before his nomination in which he criticized Mueller’s investigation for the way it was presumably looking into whether Trump had obstructed justice.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Barr the memo showed “a determined effort, I thought, to undermine Bob Mueller.” The nominee told senators he was merely trying to advise Justice Department officials against “stretching the statute beyond what was intended” to conclude the president had obstructed justice.
Though Barr said an attorney general should work in concert with an administration’s policy goals, he broke from some Trump talking points, including the mantra that the Russia probe is a witch hunt, and said he frowned on “Lock Her Up” calls for Hillary Clinton. Trump has equivocated on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and assailed and pushed out his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing because of his work with the Trump campaign.
Barr stated without hesitation that it was in the public interest for Mueller to finish his investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to sway the presidential election. He said he would resist any order by Trump to fire Mueller without cause and called it “unimaginable” that Mueller would do anything to require his termination.
“I believe the Russians interfered or attempted to interfere with the election, and I think we have to get to the bottom of it,” Barr said during the nine-hour hearing.
He said that, at 68 years old and partially retired, he felt emboldened to “do the right thing and not really care about the consequences.” If a president directs an attorney general to do something illegal, he said, an attorney general must resign.
“I will not be bullied into doing anything that I think is wrong by anybody, whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the president,” Barr said.
Consumed by the partial government shutdown, Trump remained out of sight at the White House but also kept an eye on the news coverage of the hearing and told aides he was pleased with how Barr was handling himself, said two White House officials and a Republican close to the White House who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal conversations.
On other topics, Barr echoed in part Trump’s hardline immigration stance and said the Justice Department would not go after marijuana companies in states where the drug is legal. He also would not rule out jailing reporters for doing their jobs, saying he could envision circumstances where a journalist could be held in contempt “as a last resort.”
Barr’s hearing continues Wednesday with a lineup of character witnesses, including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Barr’s confirmation is likely, given that Republicans control the Senate. Even some Democrats have been looking to move on from acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who declined to remove himself the Russia probe and has faced scrutiny over his private dealings.
But he nonetheless faced skeptical questions from Democrats over whether he could oversee without bias or interference the remainder of Mueller’s probe.
Feinstein said the nominee’s past rhetoric in support of expansive presidential powers “raises a number of serious questions about your views on executive authority and whether the president is, in fact, above the law.” Barr, responding with a more moderate view, said he believed a president who ordered an attorney general to halt an investigation would be committing an “abuse of power” if not necessarily a crime.
Barr said under questioning from Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, that he wouldn’t interfere with a Mueller request to subpoena Trump for his testimony “if there was a factual basis.” But he also said he saw no reason to change Justice Department legal opinions that have held that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Barr called Mueller a friend of 30 years and said “it is vitally important” that Mueller be allowed to complete his investigation.
“I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” he said when asked by the panel’s Republican chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The special counsel is required to report his findings confidentially to the Justice Department. Barr said he then expected to produce his own report to Congress and said it was his goal to release as much information as possible to the public, though he stopped short of a direct pledge. He also noted the Justice Department does not typically disclose information about people it decides not to prosecute.
He disclosed having discussed Mueller with Trump during a meeting in 2017 when Barr declined to join his legal team. He said he and his wife had been “sort of looking forward to a bit of respite and I didn’t want to stick my head into that meat grinder.”
Trump wanted to know what Mueller, who worked for Barr when he led the Justice Department between 1991 and 1993, was like.
“He was interested in that, wanted to know what I thought about Mueller’s integrity and so forth and so on,” Barr said. “I said Bob is a straight shooter and should be dealt with as such.”
He also defended his decision to send an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department in which he criticized as “fatally misconceived” the theory of obstruction that Mueller appeared to be pursuing with regard to Trump, including investigation into his president’s firing of former FBI director James Comey.
He said he raised his concerns at a lunch with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller. Rosenstein didn’t respond and was “sphinxlike,” Barr recalled. He followed up with the memo in June. Barr sent the document to White House lawyers and discussed it with Trump’s personal attorneys and a lawyer representing Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, among others.
Barr said the memo was narrowly focused on a single theory of obstruction that media reports suggested Mueller might be considering.
He said he would consult with ethics officials on whether he would need to recuse because of the memo but the decision would be ultimately his.
Associated Press writers Chad Day, Jonathan Lemire and Colleen Long contributed to this report.
Read Barr’s prepared testimony: http://apne.ws/x87UoUn
Leaders always ‘manufacture’ crises, in politics and business
January 16, 2019
Author: Bert Spector, Associate Professor of International Business and Strategy at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University
Disclosure statement: Bert Spector does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
“This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.”
That’s how President Donald Trump framed his demand for funds to build a “border wall” and end the partial government shutdown. That declaration was met with counter-claims that the crisis at the border was indeed real – but one of Trump’s own making.
I’m currently completing a book on the use and abuse of the word “crisis” by political and business leaders to create a sense of urgency.
While it is true that Trump and his administration are especially reckless in their deployment of the term crisis, they are far from alone in doing so.
You’ve undoubtedly heard nongovernmental organizations talk about humanitarian crises in countries like Yemen and Syria and pundits warn about a crisis in liberal democracy.
And as the Earth warms, the polar caps melt and storms regularly devastate communities around the globe, human beings are said to face an environmental crisis that threatens our very existence. In the world of business, crises arise from declining stock prices, bankruptcy and malfeasance on the part of CEOs.
Some of the instances of crisis claims may seem quite legitimate to you. Others may strike you as dubious. What they all have in common is this: None of them are real things.
‘Uh oh!’ – it’s a crisis
Political leaders frequently use these claims to advance a particular agenda.
For example, in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used the supposed urgency of an attack on an American battleship to rally support for escalating the war in Vietnam. George W. Bush claimed a similar rationale for ousting Saddam Hussein from Iraq in 2001.
In every case, leaders reference real things in their claims: an attack on a battleship, possession of nuclear weapons, the number of immigrants entering a country, the observable effects of climate change or the arrest of a CEO. These are the cold, hard facts that can and should be subjected to objective fact-checking – even if doing so isn’t always easy.
But what transforms objective description of an event into a crisis is that the leader adds an “uh-oh” element. That’s where the urgency of crisis comes into play.
This element of a claim is not objective at all. It is a subjective reading of the world around us, a reading filtered – sometimes unconsciously and other times quite deliberately – through our own biases and previously established opinions.
It’s that subjective uh-oh element that is intended by the leader to convince followers that the social unit – the community, the business or even the nation – faces an urgent situation.
Objective and subjective
All claims of crisis contain both objective descriptions of events and subjective explanations of why they should be understood as a crisis.
Observers can and should evaluate the objective element of a claim according to their accuracy.
On the border “crisis,” for example, the president declared: “In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records.”
The statement is, as it stands, accurate. But it relies on the suppression of key facts. For example, figures show that most of the crimes committed by “illegal aliens” are immigration-related offenses rather than violent attacks. The number of illegal immigrants entering the United States is declining. And the immigrant community is mostly law-abiding.
Trump’s claim also had an uh-oh element when he labeled it a “humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.”
Of course, this is a subjective interpretation of the world. It can no more be thought of as accurate than inaccurate. But that doesn’t mean observers can’t evaluate the subjective element of a claim. To do so, I suggest using the criterion of plausibility.
How to evaluate a crisis claim
Plausibility is the “quality of being believed.”
It is an argument that is potentially believable, demanding a conclusion drawn on the basis of well-defined reasoning. Plausibility insists that reliable principles and methods of reasoning are utilized in a transparent and logical process. You may or may not agree with the interpretation, but the path from description to use of the term should be clear.
I would suggest that there is no logical progression from the number of illegal immigrants to the assertion of a “humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.” The reasoning relies almost entirely on biased stereotyping.
Responding to a ‘crisis’
Based on my research, I propose a classification system for all claims of crisis that considers both the accuracy of the objective, descriptive element of a claim and the plausibility of the subjective uh-oh element. Claims of crisis that combine an accurate description with a plausible explanation can be said to be legitimate. Claims that are either inaccurate, implausible or both are not.
It is fruitless to engage in a debate as to whether a claim of a “humanitarian crisis,” a “crisis of the soul” or even a business crisis is true or false, right or wrong.
By appreciating that a crisis is not a real thing but rather a label applied by a leader to an ambiguous, dynamic world, Americans and others can appreciate the elements that constitute a claim and evaluate it as legitimate or otherwise. After doing that, we can all then begin to determine how to respond.