“It’s easy to attack any major city, as we’ve seen from the attacks on London and Madrid, which are much farther away from areas of conflict than Nairobi is, and we have seen that in Uganda, Shabab was taking the fight against the country whose troops they are fighting at home, so the risks for Kenya are real,” says Roger Middleton, a Horn of Africa expert at Chatham House, a London think tank.
Taking a war home to one’s enemy has great risks for both sides. For Kenya, the risk of intervention is that Al Shabab supporters can launch even more terror attacks against a country that relies heavily on tourism and that increasingly pins its future on high technology and information services. Kenya could also create an internal enemy if it handles its own sizable ethnic Somali population too harshly. But for Somali militants, launching terror attacks on Kenyan soil could have a galvanizing effect on a Kenyan public whose patience with Somalia’s two decades of civil war – and with hosting at least 500,000 Somali drought and war refugees – could well run out.
On Monday, Nairobi police officials were cautiously investigating links between the grenade attack and Al Shabab.