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Westgate mall terrorist attack has roots in Kenya’s intervention in Somalia

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The ongoing situation at the Westgate mall in Nairobi is the latest manifestation of the increasingly tangled ties between Kenya and its anarchic Horn of Africa neighbour Somalia.

Somalia has been without a recognised central government since 1991, when President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown. The country has since splintered under the control of various groups, including transitional federal institutions and the Islamic Courts Union – which at one point controlled much of south and central Somalia. There are also the breakaway states of Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland.

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Successive international interventions, including the African Union mission in Somalia (Amisom), Kenyan and Ethiopian armed forces, and the most recent United Nations assistance mission in Somalia (Unsom), deployed in July, have all failed to contain the security situation in the country.

Many blame international involvement, including the US, for exacerbating the situation by picking sides in the conflict and pitting factions against one another. The rise of al-Shabaab – an al-Qaida inspired group that emerged from the courts movement in retaliation against what was seen as the interference of foreign powers – has brought an increasingly unpredictable element to the conflict.

Kenya, which has suffered a series of attacks building up to the events of at Westgate as a result of its involvement in Somalia, sent troops into the country in October 2011 to fight al-Shabaab, vowing to pull them out by Christmas. Yet the group remains a bold symbol of the intransigent nature of Somalia’s security problems.

Since 2010, when Mogadishu was the scene of bloody urban warfare, there have been signs of recovery, with a growing number of Somalis from the diaspora returning to the country and a mini-property boom in the capital, Mogadishu.

But some analysts say that as al-Shabaab has lost its stronghold over parts of the country, it has become an increasingly desperate movement, posing a greater security threat than ever.

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“Al-Shabaab has lost a lot of territory,” said Rashd Abdi, a Somalia expert in Nairobi. “It is an increasingly diminished movement, it has alienated many Somalis. To make up for those losses, [al-Shabaab] has stepped up its asymmetric warfare tactics. Mogadishu is now more unsafe – with bombings, assassinations, grenade attacks, and now seeing this become regionalised.

“My fear is that it may also become internationalised – al-Shabaab supporters around the globe may want to launch an attack like this.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013

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Trump is a vampire who feeds off his own followers — and no one deserved to be drained more than Jeff Sessions

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Former senator and disgraced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has finally come, at age 73, to what is almost certainly the end of the road for his villainous political career. On Tuesday night, the right-wing Republican who served as a U.S. senator from 1997 to 2017 lost in his comeback attempt, defeated in the Republican primary for his old seat by Tommy Tuberville, a man whose cartoonish name better suited his previous career as head football coach at Auburn. The runoff election between the two wasn't even close, with the Riverboat Gambler (a silly and self-serious nickname for Tuberville, especially when "The Tubz" was right there for the taking) taking more than 60% of the vote.

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‘Top Gun’ helmet and ‘Alien’ spaceship in Hollywood props auction

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Maverick's fighter jet helmet, Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber, Rocky's boxing gloves and an 11-foot "Alien" spaceship tipped to fetch half a million dollars will go up for auction in Los Angeles next month.

The sale of hundreds of legendary Hollywood movie props will be live-streamed on August 26-27, including items wielded by Indiana Jones and Clint Eastwood's Western outlaw Josey Wales.

A giant model of "Nostromo," the interstellar tug-ship on which Ridley Scott's classic "Alien" takes place, tops the pre-sale estimates at $300,000-500,000.

Constructed mainly of wood and steel, it was personally filmed for the movie's exterior shots by Scott, who had it "repainted dark gray and weathered extensively to imply decades of deep-space travel," said event organizers Prop Store.

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Aides scramble to satisfy Trump’s need for adulation from big crowds during a pandemic: report

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In the wake of President Trump's less-than-stellar campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, campaign aides scrambled to reschedule another one in order to redeem themselves, setting their sights in the state of New Hampshire for their next event.

But the event was abruptly called off, thanks to an incoming tropical storm that never materialized. But according to inside sources speaking to POLITICO, the cancelation was more due to concerns about attendance -- a concern that underscores a challenge for the Trump campaign: how to satiate Trump's need for big crowds in the midst of a pandemic.

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