The United States is sending investigators to Nairobi, Kenya, to gather forensic information and details about the recent deadly attack in a shopping mall, citing concerns that the responsible terrorist group could try a similar assault on the U.S. homeland, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The FBI already has been monitoring the Somali Islamist terrorist organization al-Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaida. The U.S. government has invested large sums of money in counter-terrorism operations targeting al-Shabab. However, the multi-day siege in Nairobi of the Westgate shopping complex and the killings of at least 67 people there has shown the world the group is not yet defeated.
"The more we know about the planning that went into this, the way it was conducted, what was used, the people involved, the better we can protect America," U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said, expressing solidarity with the East African nation.
Not even 24 hours after the mall siege came to an end, more than 20 FBI investigators scoured the scene to gather biometric data and studied cameras, computers and firearms in the hopes of figuring out how the attack was devised and orchestrated. Members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force unit are expected to shortly travel to Nairobi, an unidentified law enforcement source said.
As of yet, there are no signs al-Shabab is planning specific strikes on the United States. Still, the group's ability to gather adherents from the country and other Western nations is more pronounced than any other al-Qaida affiliated organization, The Hill newspaper reported.
"This is a real concern because al-Shabab has a real recruitment process. And how did I hear this? I heard it from them on television," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.
Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), however, reportedly does not see the organization posing a serious threat to the United States, and views the Nairobi assault as a final attempt at maintaining relevance after coming close to being crushed in Somalia.
"When you pin a rattlesnake into a corner, they are going to strike out," Thornberry, who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee on intelligence and emerging threats, said in an interview with The Hill.