Security agents are on high alert after intelligence reports indicated that Al-Shabaab militants were planning attacks in Kenya and other African countries with their soldiers to Somalia.
Kenya on high alert following terrorist threats
Information from Kenyan intelligence agencies and the 2014 US Global Threat Assessment report indicate that government buildings and other installations could be targeted.
Also targeted are Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda because of those countries’ troop contributions to the African Union peace-keeping force in Somalia.
The Amisom military component has 5,432 troops from Burundi, 1,000 from Djibouti, 3,664 from Kenya, 850 from Sierra Leone and 6,223 from Uganda. Ethiopia last week officially deployed 4,395 to join the force.
Mr David Kimaiyo, the Inspector-General of Police, Thursday said that security had been beefed up in the areas identified as potential targets.
“We have our intelligence reports and have enhanced security across the country for some time now. It is not as a result of the warning issued on Wednesday,” he said.
Mr Kimaiyo insisted that the beefing up of security was not as a result of the latest reports. A joint team made up of officers drawn from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) and the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) have covertly been operating over the past few days in the places identified as terrorist risks.
On Wednesday last week, a team of 20 officers from the General Service Unit’s Recce Squad was deployed at a shopping mall as a precautionary measure.
One embassy in the outskirts of the city centre also wrote to the police requesting enhanced security. In its letter, the embassy said it feared that some of its interests in the Horn of Africa and in East Africa could be targeted by terrorists.
Said part of the letter: “This Embassy received warning that the terrorists group Al-Shabaab is preparing an armed terrorist attack… The Embassy therefore requests the relevant Kenyan authorities to immediately strengthen and enhance the security of the embassy’s compound.”
A European country, which has been active in combating piracy in the Indian Ocean is also believed to be among potential targets.
Information from the police indicate that terrorists could be planning two simultaneous attacks.
Already, airports, especially Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, have introduced tougher security measures which require that all vehicles be stopped and searched at entry points while the occupants should alight for frisking.
Among the new rules is a requirement that all airline passengers arrive at the airport an hour before the recommended reporting time to ensure they have sufficient time for the security checks. The security standard was raised a level higher two weeks after a small explosion at the airport which was blamed on security lapse.
During the January 16 incident, suspected terrorists threw an improvised explosive device (IED) within JKIA and sped off. On reaching the security barrier, they were challenged to stop but defied the orders.
The officers manning the barrier shot at the car but did not pursue it.
An hour later, the body of a middle aged man of Somali origin was found in the rear seat of the bullet-riddled car abandoned at Nairobi’s Shauri Moyo shopping centre.
Witnesses later told police that two men alighted from the car and rode away on a motorcycle. Several suspects have been interrogated over the incident, including the trader who sold the car to the suspects, but the suspects are still at large.
In the recent past, there have been reports that rogue police officers and airline employees were conspiring with potentially dangerous passengers to compromise security. On Wednesday night, nine suspects including a CID officer and a Kenya Airways employee allegedly involved in fake passports and visas cartel were arrested at JKIA.
The nine — who included seven foreigners — were Thursday charged in a Kibera court with conspiracy to forge identification and immigration documents.
Maalim Mustafa Ibrahim, a police officer attached to the JKIA police station, Paul Okoth, an officer with Kenya Airways and the foreigners from Somalia, Ethiopia and Banglandesh were not required to plead to the charges due to a communication hitch because the foreigners did not understand English or Kiswahili.
The foreigners faced a separate count of being in Kenya illegally.
The prosecution said that although Mr Maalim and Mr Okoth were Kenyans, they could not take pleas because they were jointly charged with the foreigners. Their lawyers asked the court to allow them to take plea.
The magistrate, Mrs Judith Wanjala, directed that interpreters be made available in court on February 4 to facilitate the suspects take plea.