Westgate attack: Security enhanced as Kenya marks 10 years

Multi-agency operations have proved to be helpful in efforts to tame the attacks

In Summary
  • Security officials say they have thwarted a number of planned attacks in the country.
  • Apart from those happening near the Kenya-Somalia border, the officials say they have stopped dozens other planned terror-related attacks.

There will be enhanced security at various places as the country marks ten years since terrorists stormed Westgate Shopping Mall in Westlands and killed at least 70 people.

Police headquarters said they had enhanced operations to disrupt any form of insecurity related to a similar attack.

The operation has incorporated private security guards who are now apparently trained on how to detect and report many forms of crimes including terrorism for action.

Nairobi, police boss Adamson Bungei said they have planned to enhance security accordingly.

“We are aware and have deployed more personnel in various forms. We continue to urge for public support to win this war,” he said.

There will be multi-agency teams in various places in the country.

As part of planned events to mark the day, Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo and Director General Private Security Regulatory Authority Fazul Mohamed will visit various malls in the city and launch special badges for the guards.

They will later commemorate the day at the Westgate Mall.

Security officials said they have thwarted a number of planned attacks in the country.

Apart from those happening near the Kenya-Somalia border, the officials say they have stopped dozens of planned terror-related attacks.

On September 21, 2013, four masked gunmen attacked the Westgate shopping mall, an upscale mall in Nairobi.

That afternoon of September 21, a group of armed attackers pulled up at the main entrance of the Westgate Mall, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer with the registration plate KAS 575X.

They immediately began throwing grenades and shooting at bystanders.

They stormed into the main mall to indiscriminately target shoppers marking the start of the siege.

According to officials, before the attack, the security agencies had demonstrated their capability both analytically and operationally in containing many of the terror group’s complex and spectacular plots.

“Operation Linda Mpaka”, which was a Kenya Defence Forces covert operation in Somalia had rattled the terror group.

This was before they publicly declared "Operation Linda Nchi" in October 2011 when President Mwai Kibaki announced that Kenyan troops were moving into the war-torn nation to pursue the militants.

The terrorists had made declarations indicating their attacks in Kenya.

A series of public declarations by the group’s leaders and a senior Kenyan 'Amir', the Amir of Al-Hijra in Somalia on January 7, 2012, gave the indications.

In a video warning from Somalia, he said: "But if they seek your help in religion, it is your duty to help them" and categorically declared that Kenya was a "war zone".

And to underscore the warnings, Ahmad Iman, using the nom de guerre 'Abu Usama', three months later in the al-Shabaab Kiswahili magazine Gaidi Mtaani published an article titled "Levelling the scales".

In it, he warned: "... look at how vulnerable Kenya is... we have tourists, shopping malls, bars, etc... just imagine how we can compromise your economy, kill one 'mzungu (white person) and they all run away... just imagine."

While often al-Shabaab's public declarations amounted to propaganda and offered little or no intelligence warning value this suggested al-Shabaab's determination to conduct a major attack in Kenya.

One of the reasons for selecting Westgate as a target was the high number of Westerners frequenting it daily.

The gang also planned another deadly attack in Mombasa, Kenya the following year.

In March 2014, Isaak Noor Ibrahim and Abdiaziz Abdulahi Abdi, two al-Shabaab operatives, went to pick up a vehicle parked at the Baragwo parking yard in Mombasa.

The vehicle according to multiple credible sources, was destined for an unknown al-Shabaab operation possibly in Mombasa as part of an advanced stage plot.

Arriving at the parking yard, the two operatives were immediately apprehended by Kenyan security agents.

Inside the vehicle were two cylinders filled with TNT explosives connected to a triggering system and a cache of arms, including AK-47 rifles, 270 rounds of ammunition, six grenades, five magazines, and four detonators.

A month after the attack in Nairobi, al-Shabaab attempted to target Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Suspects sentenced

In 2020, a court sentenced two men to 18 and 33 years in jail after they were convicted of helping Islamist militants attack a shopping mall in 2013.

The state said the four militants who carried out the attack were found dead in the shopping center's rubble.

These are the only convictions relating to the Westgate attack.

A third man who was found not guilty on all counts of conspiracy to commit a terrorist act has been missing since the day after the verdict was announced.

Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, who received a 33-year prison sentence, and Hussein Hassan Mustafa, who was jailed for 18 years, were charged with planning and committing acts of terror, as well as supporting and helping a terrorist group.

The third suspect, Liban Abdullahi, was found not guilty. The Somali refugee was also acquitted of the charge of being in Kenya illegally and possessing identification documents by false presence.

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