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Nairobi conspiracism from a popular Kenyan tweeter

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — “certain people were warned to stay away” as a recurring theme in terror attacks ]
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Conspiracism was, I’m afraid, inevitable: it’s in the air, worldwide. What’s interesting here is the evident local popularity of the guy who posted this tweet:

This was posted early this morning.

Back in August 2012, the Nairobi Wire site ran a piece headlined Twitter Goes Silent As Robert Alai Is Arrested which referred to Robert Alai as the “tweep in chief” — so we can deduce that Alai already had quite a following at least a year prior to the Westgate tragedy. As of this time of writing, he has 88,046 followers: some may be following him for the lulz, but surely not all of them.

Let’s just call this an early indicator of an undertow in the currents rippling around Nairobi and the Westgate Mall event. It is significant (I wouldn’t go nearly so far as to say important) as one small piece of a much larger cultural puzzle. And pattern-wise, it’s a local match for the Jews were warned to stay away meme that circulated after 9/11.

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H/t Laura Seay for pointing us to this “Kenyan Truther” tweet.

Nairobi tweets 3: Caution

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron ]

Update:


As of Monday morning 11am California time:

I now think it’s clear that the twitter stream I was commenting on in the two prior posts in this series was not an official Shabaab feed, and thus untrustworthy as to its statements — although it’s exact status (fan, mimic, troll, loosely connected?) is undetermined.

I am leaving the posts up (a) for the record, and (b) for whatever minor interest they may still have.

Original post:

I just added the following cautionary note to the two previous posts in this series:

I’ll update if and when it’s appropriate.

Nairobi tweets 2: Sun Tzu and more

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — further hints from the HSM Press twitter stream, following on from part 1 on bullet-proofing ]

Update:


As of Monday morning 11am California time:

I now think it’s clear that the twitter stream I was commenting on in this post and the first in the series was not an official Shabaab feed, and thus untrustworthy as to its statements — although it’s exact status (fan, mimic, troll, loosely connected?) is undetermined.

I am leaving the post up (a) for the record, and (b) for whatever minor interest it may still have.

Original post:


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Okay, let’s pick up the thread from my earlier post in this series with this sheer poetry — sheer Anglo-Chinese poetry in fact, the poetry of Sun Tzu from The Art of War — Chapter 7, “Maneuvering”, # 19 in the Lionel Giles translation.

I won’t be presenting the rest of these tweets in graphical form, since that would be labor intensive and I’m trying to be conservative about my labor, but there’s one more Sun Tzu quote I noticed in their stream, and we’ll come to it.

In the meantime, HSM Press tweeted on a variety of topics, all of which seem relevant to them:

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Let’s note first the importance given to prayer in these tweets:

  • our mujahideen just prayed salat dhuhr! #westgate #alshabaab #Nairobi
  • our mujahideen are preparing to pray salat maghrib! #westgate #AlShabaab #Nairobi
  • The Qur’an is cited:

  • and kill them wherever you find them! ring a bell? #westgate #AlShabaab
  • Their Islam is a religion of peace —

  • yes islam is a religion of peace! thats undebatable. the debate here is who hit first? #westgate #AlShabaab
  • dont blame islam! islam never told you wage war on another country! #westgate
  • — but peace comes arms-in-arms with justice.

    There are matters of logistics:

  • we tweeted arrival of 2 squads and they are replacing our first two now. hooo-ah! #Westgate
  • update: our third mujahideen squad just crossed the border, enroute to #garisa and other undisclosed locations. #Westgate #AlShabaab
  • update: 4th mujahideen squad rendezvous to undisclosed location! brace yourselves #kenya #westgate #AlShabaab
  • Here’s that other Sun Tzu quote, along with a mention of training camps:

  • the first thing they taught us in training camps: know your enemy! #AlShabaab #Westgate
  • and there, making a fine DoubleQuote, is Margaret Atwood‘s nifty variant on Clausewitz:

  • “War is what happens when language fails.” #westgate @nairobi
  • Now, about those “training camps”?

  • have we mentioned we trained in this same building months ago! our mujahideen know every corner of this building! #alshabaab #westgate
  • But also:

  • our mujahideen are all under 25 years old. 7 of them having completed training in black water facility in north california! #Westgate
  • So they train with Blackwater / Academi and in situ, eh? And they’re all under 25 — when they started naming namesa bit later, they identified at least one 27 year old, but you get the drift — and at least one is a young woman:

  • our female combatant took out 15 kenyan soldier! what an amazing woman! #Westgate
  • They count the cost — though unlike AQC in the case of 9/11, they don’t do so to show what a huge ROI they have, just to be glad it wasn’t a flop:

  • the vast amount of time, money and dedication we contributed to this operation were glad it was carried successfully! #westgate #AlShabaab
  • They call it an op here, but their view of its size and importance is pretty flexible as to scale…

    It’s a game — the “war as game meme” once again!:

  • lets see how yall enjoy this game! #westgate #alshabaab #Nairobi
  • They also call it a war:

  • this is a war and its not going to end well. #westgate #AlShabaab
  • It’s not a Jihad, though:

  • #JIHAD is a big word to use for this drill. #kneyans you will know when jihad is happening its unevitable! #westgate #AlShabaab
  • It’s gonna get worse:

  • you call few hundred death a deadly attack. well see what a deadly attack is. brace yourselves #lenya #westgate #AlShabaab
  • — and hey, it looks as though they have their eye on S Africa as a target further down the road:

  • #southafrica gere we come!!! #Westgate
  • **

    Those are the tweets I found interesting on a first read. HSM followed up with the names and home cities of three American participants, and then their feed was suspended and I was invited to return to my home timeline…

    Credit goes to JM Berger for getting Twitter to be a whole lot quicker in disabling their feeds, but it’s all a bit whack-a-mole, and I suspect they’re probably back up by now, under some variant name or other.

    Nairobi tweets 1: Bulletproof?

    Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — taking a hint from the twitter stream of HSM Press and running with it ]

    Update:


    As of Monday morning 11am California time:

    I now think it’s clear that the twitter stream I was commenting on in this post and the second in the series was not an official Shabaab feed, and thus untrustworthy as to its statements — although it’s exact status (fan, mimic, troll, loosely connected?) is undetermined.

    I am leaving the post up (a) for the record, and (b) for whatever minor interest it may still have.

    Original post:

    Al-Shabaab’s “HSM Press Office” had been tweeting up a storm during the Nairobi mall “operation” — it’s been shut down at least rwice, maybe more? — and some of the claims made are worth a little exploration. Let’s start with the “bullet-proof” claim:

    **

    For some (not by any means exhaustive) historical context on that, consider this report from the Phillipines a decade ago:

    The kidnapped head of the Jesus Miracle Crusade, fiery televangelist Wilde Almeda, particularly has special powers that will protect him from bullets, said Robert Chua, a member of the group. Almeda and the 12 other members of his ministry went to the camp of the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf in southern Jolo island on Saturday to pray over 20 mostly-foreign hostages seized by the rebels from a Malaysian resort on April 23 and to convince the kidnappers to free their captives. The military says they together with a German journalist, Andreas Lorenz, are also now being held hostage by the notorious Abu Sayyaf.

    This, from Myanmar:

    Thailand said Wednesday it may give humanitarian asylum to Johnny and Luther Htoo, the twin boy leaders of a mystical rebel movement from Myanmar who have surrendered with some of their followers. Hunted and hungry, 14 members of the God’s Army group – nine of them children, including the charismatic twins – turned themselves over to Thai authorities on Tuesday after a year on the run along the Thai-Myanmar border. For more than three years, the boys fought to overthrow Myanmar’s military government, and their followers believe Johnny and Luther have magical powers that make them invincible in battle.

    Or this from the Lakota Ghost Dancers:

    The presence of the troops frightened the dancers into running for the outlying areas of the some skirmishes fought. One legend of the Ghost Shirt was born during one of these skirmishes. The Ghost Shirt was part of the special clothing worn while dancing the Ghost Dance. The Sioux were the only Indians to give the Ghost Shirt bullet proof qualities. (2-42) During one of the skirmishes with the soldiers, a lone Indian rode his pony within easy rifle range of soldiers, line and allowed them to fire on him. Whether true to the qualities of the Ghost Shirt he was wearing, or due to the poor shooting of the soldiers he escaped unscathed.

    And this, from Thomas Muentzer‘s Anabaptist deviants in Martin Luther‘s early Protestant Europe:

    They’re singing hymns. They literally are awaiting a glorious triumph. Muentzer assures them that he will catch the cannonballs in his shirthhsleeves. Of course, it turned into a slaughter. Five thousand ill-equipped peasants were slaughtered. The Peasants’ Revolt was utterly destroyed. It was one of those incredible explosions of apocalypticism that arise in history.

    **

    Just whether the individuals in the Nairobi mall or tweeting for HSM Press take that “bullet-proof” reference literally or figuratively is an open question.

    For a sense of the levels of non-scientific thinking — ie shamanism aka “witchcraft” — in today’s Kenya, see for instance this semi-skeptical account and its apocalyptic touch, or perhaps Believe it or not: Witchcraft in Kenya, with this interesting and quite relevant paragraph:

    Another friend’s sister was victim of a grenade attack at a church in Mombasa. Shattered glass went everywhere but she, standing at the window, was not injured. She said that people were muttering things about the protection afforded by genies. Interestingly, she was at church but had recently converted to Islam, not that anyone knew. Not anyone visible, anyway.

    And before we assume that all these experiments pitting prayer against guns always turn out badly for the prayerful side — it’s worth noting that “fiery televangelist Wilde Almeda” survived to tell the tale….

    **

    There’s a great deal more of interest on several levels in the HSM tweets, but I’ll break here and pick up in a following post.


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