Written by Chriss W. Street
As the movie thriller ‘Captain Phillips’, about economically depressed Somali hostage-taking al Qaeda pirates, opens the New York Film Festival this week, the real Somali al Qaeda pirates were murdering and holding hundreds of hostages in a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall. Hollywood always likes to take credit for “life imitating art”, because they believe “What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art.” American Navy SEALs use stealth and daring to successfully rescue hostages in ‘Captain Phillips.’ But with at least 62 dead after four days of battle between the Somali pirates and the combined forces of the Kenyan military and Israeli commandos, al-Qaeda has successfully demonstrated that their art is maximizing civilian mayhem and terror.
Director Paul Greengrass, who dramatized in 2006 the 9/11 terrorist hijacking of “United 93”, filmed many of the movie’s scenes at sea to capture a hyper-realistic feel. He stated that instead of telling a simplified tinsel-town story of the brutality of the hijackers and the courageous captain, played by Tom Hanks, to have sought a more nuanced point of view, highlighting the entrenched economic problems that cause people to resort to piracy in the first place, “On the one hand, you are getting a very exciting film, and on the other hand, one that rewards the watcher without lecturing you.”
Greengrass says he isn’t interested in finding heroes and villains. Instead, he tried to employ his jumpy, documentary style to show events as they actually happened. “You understand the pirates’ desperation and the danger they pose,” he says, “but you understand their humanity too.” In one key scene Mr. Phillips—nicknamed “Irish” by his captors—tells one of the Somalis hostage-takers that there must be job opportunities in Somalia besides “being a fisherman and kidnapping people.” The pirate responds, “Maybe in America, Irish.”
On the real world stage in Nairobi, thick oily black smoke poured from the Westgate mall on September 23rd, after rescuers blew a hole in the roof to gain better positions to attack the al Qaeda-linked terrorists of al Shabaab terrorists, who are understand they are on a suicide mission and have no intention of surrender. A senior official tried to reassure the media by claiming the police were “closing in”, but the government has repeated similar stories for days. Al Shabaab leader Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage in a radio address broadcast from Somalia stated, “Israelis and Kenyan forces have tried to enter Westgate by force but they could not.” He added, “The mujahideen will kill the hostages if the enemies use force.”
The female villain in this al Shabaab full-length feature is the “White Widow” Samantha Lewthwaite, the fugitive former wife of one of the infamous 7/7 bombers. Her 19 year old husband Germaine Lindsay and three friends boarded three London Underground trains and a bus on the morning of July 7, 2005, then killed 52 civilians and injured 700 more by blowing themselves up. Lewthwaite was reported to be in the mall shouting orders in Arabic to the mujahideen during the initial attack. Al Shabaab hostages were then lined up and executed with AK-47s if they failed to name the Prophet Mohammed’s mother or recite passages from the Koran – proof they were non-believing “kafirs.”
Adding to the international appeal for a future movie script, Al Shabaab has been expanding its recruitment outside of Somalia to build a more multi-ethnic generation of African fighters and it has been reported that 10% of their total forces are now “Kenyan Mujahideen.” U.S. intelligence told news services over 50 Americans have also traveled to their training camps in Somalia. Last month, al-Shabaab released a video from a training camp showing three young men claiming to be from Minneapolis. One future martyr, stated:
“This is the best place to be honestly,” one of the men says. “I can only tell you from my experience being here, that you have the best of dreams, you eat the best of food, and you’re with the best of the brothers and sisters who came here for the sake of Allah. If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here. This is the real Disneyland, you need to come here and join us and take pleasure in this fun.”
It is unclear if timing of the release of ‘Captain Phillips’ inspired the al Shabaab attack. But successfully attacking an upscale shopping center, taking hundreds of hostages, and then holding off a nation’s military for days, will provide al Qaeda movie producers with plenty of “artistic” hyper-realistic feel for their upcoming recruiting films.
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