26 August 2009
EASTLEIGH, KENYA - The streets of Eastleigh, a Somali enclave of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, are crowded and dirty. Sewage and rotting garbage flow through gullies. Police are virtually nonexistent; restaurants are locked, even when open, for safety reasons; and guns are readily available for sale at the market.
No one ever said "Little Mogadishu" was paradise, but now the sprawling neighborhood has become a hub of financing and recruiting for militant Islamists waging holy war in neighboring Somalia, according to residents, security analysts, and diplomats.
"Those who kill people in Somalia are also here – scattered all over the place," says an elderly Sufi Muslim sheikh matter-of-factly. "This is the hotspot of the Somali fundamentalism.... They are recruiting right here in Nairobi."
In the latest chapter in a civil war that has raged since 1991, Somalia's radical insurgents this week rejected the Western-backed transitional government's call for a cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Militant and moderate Islamists are battling for control of the rubble-strewn streets of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, fighting that has forced more than 1.4 million people to flee their homes and caused what the United Nations on Wednesday called the country's worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years of war.But here in Eastleigh, the war takes a different form.