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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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Nunes cuts off GOP lawyer when cross-examination flops as Fiona Hill outlines damning case against Trump

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Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was forced to cut off the House GOP's own attorney after he gave former National Security Council official Fiona Hill an opportunity to outline the damning case against President Donald Trump.

Nunes' interruption came while attorney Steve Castor was asking questions about Hill's past interactions with European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland, whom she admits she got upset with after learning that he was working on Ukraine policy despite the fact that Ukraine isn't even a member of the EU.

"What I was angry about was that he wasn't coordinating with us," Hill said, referring to the National Security Council. "And what I realized was, listening to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. He wasn't coordinating with us because we weren't doing the same thing that he was doing."

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WATCH: Devin Nunes stunned after State Dept. official David Holmes knocks down his ‘black ledger’ conspiracy theory

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Intelligence Committee Ranking Republican Member Devin Nunes Thursday afternoon appeared stunned when he questioned a U.S. State Dept. official during the impeachment hearings and did not get the answer he anticipated.

Rep. Nunes has been spewing far right wing conspiracy theories during each impeachment hearing over the past two weeks, including the thoroughly debunked lie that Ukraine – not Russia – attacked the U.S. 2016 election.

(Earlier one of today’s witnesses, Dr. Fiona Hill, publicly lambasted the spreading of the false Ukraine conspiracy theory as she sat just feet away from Nunes. The video is here.)

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David Holmes blows up one of Trump’s key defenses in Ukraine extortion scheme

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David Holmes blew up one of the central arguments in the impeachment defense of President Donald Trump.

The president's Republican allies have argued that Ukraine was not aware that congressionally approved aid had been held up by the White House as Trump demanded an investigation of Joe Biden, but Holmes explained why that's wrong, reported the Washington Post.

Holmes, a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, told congressional investigators that Ukrainian officials seemed to have figured out that the pause, which had been reported in late August by Politico, was related to Trump's call for an investigation.

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