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Frederick Forsyth has al-Shabab in his Kill List

Thursday, 26 September, 2013

The Kill List “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” said Woody Allen, famously, but what about the critical remainder? Success is tied to timing so which part of good timing is due to good luck? Or is good timing a function of hard work? These questions are worth discussing in light of the latest thriller from Frederick Forsyth, The Kill List. What makes its appearance right now so uncanny is that much of the story plays out in Somalia, home to the terrorist group al-Shabab, which provides sanctuary for the fanatical Islamist at the centre of the novel. Following the weekend slaughter at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, the name al-Shabab, meaning “The Youth” in Arabic, is now associated with butchery and horror as fact intersects with fiction.

In Forsyth’s novel, the evil sermons of the wicked “Preacher” are being broadcast in immaculate English from a command centre in the Somali port of Kismayo, and in the real world on Monday a man identifying himself as Abu Umar, an al-Shabab commander in Kismayo, spoke impeccable English as he offered details on the identity of the terrorists and the siege that suggested a command centre inside Somalia was running the operation. Forsyth is concise on the tragic story of this wretched place, which once had comprised French Somaliland, British Somaliland and the former Italian Somaliland. Snippet:

“After a few years of the usual dictatorship, the once thriving and elegant colony where wealthy Italians use to vacation had lapsed into civil war. Clan fought clan, tribe fought tribe, warlord after warlord sought supremacy. Finally, with Mogadishu and Kismayo just seas of rubble, the outside world had given up.

A belated notoriety had returned when the beggared fishermen of the north turned to piracy and the south to Islamic fanaticism. Al-Shabab had arisen not as an offshoot but as an ally to Al-Qaeda and conquered all the south. Mogadishu hovered as a fragile token capital of a corrupt regime living on aid…”

Frederick Forsyth provides much more than a page turner when he writes thrillers. The Kill List is history, geography and a warning to the civilized world as well. As events at Westgate Mall have shown, the barbarians are at the gates.


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