THREAT REMAINS REAL

How Kenya has remained resilient despite terror attacks

Destructive threat by al Shabaab remains real in Kenya and East Africa region.

In Summary

• In the past two decades, Kenya has been attacked repeatedly by the terror group, which is based in neighbouring Somalia.

• The destructive threat by the terror organisation remains real not only in Kenya but the East Africa region as well. 

Rescue operation during the Dusit D2 terror attack
Rescue operation during the Dusit D2 terror attack
Image: COURTESY

This Saturday marks three years since the horrific Dusit2D terror attack carried out by the al Shabaab terror group that claimed 21 lives.

Six years on, the destructive threat by the terror organisation remains real not only in Kenya but the East Africa region as well. 

In the past two decades, Kenya has been attacked repeatedly by the terror group, which is based in neighbouring Somalia.

The attacks have left the government with the task of ensuring that our borders are well protected.

There are instances where a planned terror attack is known earlier in advance and the advantage with this is that this gives the targeted area time to prevent the attack from taking place.

In other instances, countries are caught off-guard, leaving behind damages and losses that are usually quite hard to come off.

Last year, Interior CS Fred Matiangi ordered the accounts of nine Kenyans be frozen over links with terrorism.

They include; Halima Ali, Waleed Zein, Sheikh Boru, Mohammed Ali, Nuseiba Haji, Abdimajit Hassan, Mohammed Ali Abdi, Muktar Ali and Mire Elmi.

The government has also created special forums to fight extremism across the country.

The initiative is meant to end radicalisation and recruitment of youth into terrorism.

Here are some of the deadly attacks carried out by the terror group.

Dusit D2 complex

On January 15, 2019, businesses ran as usual.

At the Dusit D2 complex, nothing was different and the different businesses run in the complex were on their daily routine.

But no one thought the peace and quiet would be disrupted by blasts and gunshots.

A group of four attackers said to be part of the al Shabaab militia group stormed the complex in two vehicles.

Vehicles burn at the entrance of DusitD2 attack following a terror attack on January 15, 2019.
Vehicles burn at the entrance of DusitD2 attack following a terror attack on January 15, 2019.
Image: FILE

One of the attackers blew himself up next to the Secret Garden Restaurant.

After the blast the remaining terrorists forced guards to open the gates of 14 Riverside Drive by shooting at them and lobbing grenades as they made their way into the complex, setting ablaze some of the vehicles in the parking bay.

As occupants ran for their dear lives in the horrific attack, some 21 people, unfortunately, died while over 30 were left hospitalised.

Over 700 were safely evacuated from the complex thanks to the team of security personnel.

Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement that was released during the attack.

They claimed that the attack was a response to former US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Westgate Mall

On September 21, 2013, the Westgate Mall was attacked. Sixty-seven people lost their lives in 13 countries, including Kenya and the UK.

Approximately 200 people were wounded in the mass shooting.

In March 2015, the United States military drones killed a senior al Shabaab leader, Adan Garar.

Garar is the man implicated in the Westgate Shopping Mall attack, the two Mandera bus and quarry massacres, and a vehicle intercepted with explosives at a police station in Mombasa.

DAMAGE: The Westgate Mall that was attacked on September 21 last year. AFP PHOTO/Tony KARUMBA
DAMAGE: The Westgate Mall that was attacked on September 21 last year. AFP PHOTO/Tony KARUMBA

He was killed in a drone strike carried out by the US military in Baradhere inside Somalia.

Two other senior Al Shabaab leaders were also killed in the drone attack that hit a convoy of two vehicles in which they were travelling alongside Garar who was in charge of Amniyat's external operations.

In October 2020, a court sentenced two men to 33 and 18 years in prison for their roles in the 2013 attack.

Mohamed Abdi and Hussein Mustafa are accused of assisting al Shabaab extremists who masterminded the attack.

The whereabouts of a third defendant, Libyan Abdullah Omar, who was acquitted in the trial in early October 2020, remains unknown after he was taken by gunmen.

Last year, Inspector General of police Hilary Mutyambai said the Westgate terror attack served police with important lessons

“Westgate served us important lessons. It has been a period of reflection and strengthening our capacity as a service. We sympathise with the families that lost loved ones,” he said.

Authorities’ poor response to the siege brought the country’s preparedness under sharp scrutiny. This is despite four gunmen dying during the attack and it has never been proven whether others escaped.

Garissa University 

On April 3, 2015, Garissa University College was attacked by four gunmen who stormed the institution and began firing indiscriminately.

The mass shooting left 147 dead and many others injured.

This incident was Kenya’s worst terrorist attack since the 1998 United States Embassy bombing, which left over 200 people dead.

The attack also left 83 people with serious injuries that left families of those involved with a permanent scar in their lives.

Some of the 147 masks bearing the names of those killed by al Shabaab fighters at Garissa University College in an attack on April 2, 2015. Photo/REUTERS
Some of the 147 masks bearing the names of those killed by al Shabaab fighters at Garissa University College in an attack on April 2, 2015. Photo/REUTERS

The National Intelligent Service and National Police were blamed for not doing enough to prevent the attack.

Security forces were said to have taken longer to respond to the attack, with people saying more lives would have been saved had they arrived on time.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions closed its file on the Garissa University attack case on April 2, 2019.

Four out of the five suspects were found to have a case to answer.

A total of 22 witnesses testified against them, including students who survived the attack.

Last year, three Garissa University terror convicts from Kamiti Maximum Prison, but were found and arrested in Mwingi, Kitui county.

They escaped on November 15 from Block A 6 where they had been held.

The three, Musharraf Abdalla, Joseph Juma and Mohammed Abdi were nabbed as they headed to Garissa.

Police said they suspect Musharraf Abdalla Akhulunga a.k.a Zarkarawi, Mohammed Ali Abikar and Joseph Juma Odhiambo a.k.a Yusuf were headed for Somalia.

1998 United States Embassy bombing

On August 7, 1998 Kenyans were not prepared for what was about to happen.

An attack was launched at the United States Embassy in Nairobi, leaving more than 200 people dead and scores injured.

This was the biggest terror attack experienced in the country. Media outlets from all corners of the world were reporting about the blast.

At the time when the bomb exploded in Kenya,  minutes later, another truck bomb detonated outside the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Israeli soldiers specialising in rescue operations arrive at the scene of the bomb blast in Nairobi August 8, 1998.
Israeli soldiers specialising in rescue operations arrive at the scene of the bomb blast in Nairobi August 8, 1998.
Image: REUTERS

The attack against the U.S. embassy in Dar es Saalam killed 11 and injured 85.

The United States accused Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, a proponent of international terrorism against America, of masterminding the bombings.

Well, Kenya is on course with the construction of the 700km-long barrier along its border with Somalia.

The Sh3.4 billion project started in 2015 as part of efforts to create a buffer zone to tame rising cases of terrorism.

The barrier, known as the Kenya-Somalia border securitisation project, is among others meant to secure the country from attacks by Somalia-based al Shabaab militants.

The project includes at least 22 border posts on the border with well-equipped personnel to respond to any form of aggression.

According to those aware of the project, development partners, including the UK and US governments, are helping Kenya to complete the initiative.

Edited by D Tarus