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Why construction workers have become easy target for Al Shabaab militants

Construction workers who last month survived a terror attack – after the driver of a matatu they were travelling in fled from armed Al Shabaab militants who had stopped the vehicle – survived a similar attack in July this year.

In a period of three months, Al Shabaab militants have attacked construction workers working for Jiran Construction Company but in both attacks their plans failed.

OPENED FIRED

Two weeks ago, a bold driver by-passed the militants and drove the eight construction workers to safety under a hail of bullets from the militants who attempted to waylay them along Elwak-Borehole 11 road.

The vehicle had been hired by a Jiran Construction Company that is building a health centre along the Elwak-Kutulo-Wajir road, which is notorious for attacks.

In the first attack, four Al-Shabaab militants stormed a construction site in Borehole 11 where the health centre is being constructed and caused mayhem for more than 30 minutes before they left.

The four militants ordered 10 construction workers to lie down and demanded to see Mr Joel Muinde Kitali, the site engineer. They even went to the extent of calling Mr Issack Ali Jiran who is the owner of the company and asked him the whereabouts of their target.

In a police report filed at Kotulo Police Patrol Base in Mandera County, Mr Jiran tricked the armed militants that “the engineer had escaped and after a long argument, Mr Jiran cheated them that security officials were on their way to the site.”

“On hearing that, the militants shot in the air and fled. Nobody was injured. Combined team from various security forces visited the scene tracked foot prints which took the direction of Kutayo,” the police report reads in part.

This was confirmed by the North Eastern Regional Commissioner Mr Mohamed Birik who told Nairobi News then that indeed the militants opened fire but no one was injured in the attack.

Borehole 11 area has seen an upsurge in terror-related activities and Nairobi News has learnt that the government in 2014 closed down the only Administration Police camp that was providing security at the centre.

RISING INSECURITY

The closure of the AP camp was met with protests by locals who claim the national government has abandoned them in the hands of the militants.

The attacks come at a time when top security officials in the vast North Eastern are keen in wiping out terrorists in the region taking into account Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i’s revelation that there were plans of opening quarry mines that had been closed in the region following consistent terror attacks.

Borehole 11- is located 20 kilometres from the Kenya-Somalia border and eight kilometres from El Wak town in Mandera County.

Police reports in recent weeks reveal that there is a huge presence of militants in the region and are working in collaboration with informants.

Three weeks ago, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai ordered the deployment of more police officers to deal with the rising insecurity in the region.

Other terror-related incidents that have taken in Borehole 11 place include in September 2019 when five security officers were killed after their vehicle was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

In April 28, suspected Al-Shabaab militants set-up IEDs in Borehole 11 targeting military vehicles but no one was injured in the incident.

It remains unclear why the Al-Shabaab militants have been targeting construction workers in Borehole 11.

However, security expert George Musamali say the militants attack the construction workers because most of them are non-local and are Christians.

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE

“These militants want to make it look like there are fighting a religious war as opposed to being a criminal gang,” said Musamali.

On why the only AP camp in the area was closed, the former GSU officer says the government did that as part of their ‘strategy’.

“When you use tactic without strategy, you are planning to fail. In most of the cases the government has tried to be tactical but we are still being hit,” said Musamali.

“So by closing the camp the government started being strategic. The government is now coming up with better ways of dealing with the menace as opposed to having the officers on the ground,” he says.

Musamali also called the recent attack using the IED as ‘targeted killing’ because the kind of IED used in the attacks are triggered by someone who is not far from the scene of the attack.

Musamali says they have been advocating for intel-based policing because the militants are using intel on the ground from the locals to know what is happening.

“The model we want the government to use is like that one used by Mossad in Palestine, developing local intelligence network. If the militants are using locals to collect intelligence about our security installations, the movement of our security personnel, the construction workers, why can’t we use the same strategy they are using and work with the locals for intel to secure the area,” added Musamali.

According to the security expert, the local intelligence network will be feeding the National intelligence network with information.