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Kenya’s new approach in fight against terrorism paying off

After being beaten bloody by the Somali terror group — whose members sauntered through a mall shooting shoppers and slaughtered students at a university — Kenya is finally learning how to fight the extremists.

Even though Al-Shabaab dealt Kenya the worst military defeat on record last year, when it breached the security of the El Ade base and massacred service personnel, the group’s ability to carry out attacks further from the border is a lot less today than three years ago.

Global Terrorism Database statistics show terror attacks reduced by more than three quarters in 2015 from the previous year.

The National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) says incidents have gone down even further this year with most of them taking place in towns bordering Somalia.

Some 1,007 Kenyans have been killed in terrorism incidents between 2008 and October this year. Between 2008 and July 2015, Kenya experienced 340 terrorist attacks by local and international perpetrators, 986 deaths and at least 1,520 injuries, according to US-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

Kenya experienced three attacks with 21 deaths after July 2015, an analysis of media reports shows.

The war is by no means won, however, and terrorists can stage an attack anywhere any time, but days when they threw grenades into buses and churches and put the country under siege appear behind us. So what has worked?

INTELLIGENCE SOURCES

First, fighting terrorism has become the business of all armed services — police, prison warders, game rangers and, particularly, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and its shadowy intelligence resources whose methods are reportedly brutal but effective.

Secondly, there seems to have been a realisation that it is no good having agencies working at cross-purposes and, at times, shooting one another.

Kenyan security forces had, in the immediate aftermath of the September 2013 Westgate Mall terror attack, been blamed for lacking coordination, giving the Islamist militants room to operate.

The most notable blunder resulted from a misunderstanding between the elite Reconnaissance (Recce) Squad of the General Service Unit (GSU) and the KDF, who were called in to end the siege.

The Recce Squad was forced to withdraw after several friendly fires directed at them, injured several officers.

“What has helped the most is the improved coordination between the security agencies and intelligence-driven operations,” said Mr Martin Kimani, the director of NCTC.

Third, security managers have realised that it is all very well to out-gun the terrorists; it is vital to out-smart them too. Mr Kimani said it took a lot of research to reduce the number of attacks.

“Today, the security forces are well coordinated and base their operations on intelligence,” said Mr Kimani. “We are now focusing on disrupting, preventing and deterring terror activities rather than reacting to them.”

BUCK PASSING

The NCTC is an organ of the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC), a coordinating agency for all counter-terrorism efforts.

The Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Defence Forces and Director of Intelligence, as well as the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary in the Interior Ministry, are its members.

Once intelligence on plans and threats is gathered, NCTC advises NSAC to act upon it so as to deter terror activities.

Previously, there was always buck passing between the National Intelligence Service and police with NIS claiming to have provided information which could have been used to prevent attacks and the police denying getting it.

Other factors include the realisation that terrorism is not just an invasion but also very much a local insurgency and that community level intelligence gathering and action to prevent radicalisation of youth, as well as to rehabilitate those radicalised, are essential.

Additionally, anti-money laundering laws are not only an inconvenience to corruption barons moving their loot around; they have also complicated the funding of terrorism.

“Terrorism is a global problem and Kenya’s geographical proximity to Somalia makes it more vulnerable to terror attacks than some other countries,” Mr Kimani said.

To read more click on the link: How Al-Shabaab lost battle of wit