• The coronavirus restrictions have dealt a blow to terrorist activities
Since al Shabaab militants launched a daring attack at Manda Bay, a camp used by Kenyan and US troops, in Lamu in January, Kenya has had relative peace in terror-prone areas.
December 2019 and early 2020 were marked by scores of terror alerts in major towns, forcing the state to beef up security in major hotels and most populated areas.
But since the onset of coronavirus pandemic in March, the country has witnessed few terror alert warnings and low-scale attacks in Northeastern, with Coastal areas and the Nairobi city remaining cautiously safe.
While police say they have improved strategies to combat terrorism, experts say the coronavirus may have played a big role in averting the attacks.
Security analyst Andrew Franklin said the pandemic has dealt a blow to terrorist’s activities.
“The restrictions on movement and curfews made planning and implementation much more difficult,” he told the Star. “When these disruptions occur, it does affect al Shabaab.”
He said Kenya may face an upsurge in attacks if all restrictions on movement are lifted.
“From a security point of view, if we keep these restrictions in place, the terror activities may be curbed,” he said.
His words are echoed by a United Nations paper prepared by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.
This notes that limitations imposed by governments on citizens’ freedom of movement have resulted in far fewer crowded spaces, potentially reducing the effectiveness of common terrorist tactics, including stabbings, bombings and vehicle ramming.
The paper, ‘Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on terrorism and countering violent extremism’, was published in June.
“Because of disrupted global, regional and national supply chains, terrorist groups (particularly those operating in remote areas) may struggle to reliably access food, medicine, money and weapons,” it states.
It remains to be seen if the agencies will sustain the tempo in preventing attacks, which have killed hundreds of civilians in the country in the past, from recurring.
Edited by T Jalio