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Security experts aim at improved intelligence to halt terror attacks

by Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The horrific terror attack that claimed 28 civilians in Kenya‘s Mandera County on Saturday is a confirmation the east African nation remains a soft target for militants from neighboring Somalia.

Kenyan officials confirmed that Somalia terror group 'al-Shabaab' hijacked a Nairobi-bound bus several kilometers from Mandera town and killed passengers based on their religious affiliation.

Following 'al-Shabaab's latest attack in Mandera County, experts and ordinary civilians stressed that a revamp of the entire security architecture was urgent to defeat terrorism.

Mwenda Mbijiwe, a security analyst regretted that Kenya’s vulnerability to terrorism remains high thanks to weak border surveillance and failure to act on timely intelligence reports.

During a live debate at a national television station, Mbijiwe emphasized that Kenya must revamp intelligence gathering, enhance community policing and border patrols to minimize terror attacks.

"The Mandera terrorist attack exposed our soft underbelly and it seems lessons of the past have not sunk in our collective psyche as a nation.

"We must adopt new strategies to slay the dragon of terror," Mbijiwe said.

Kenya was cited by a recent global report to be among the top five countries in Africa grappling with terrorism. The East African nation has suffered terror attacks since 1998 and the menace spiked in 2011 when its troops launched an onslaught against 'al-Shabaab' inside Somalia.

Kenyan Defense Forces were credited for degrading 'al-Shabaab' though the insurgents are still vicious.

Mbijiwe said the death of 'al-Shabaab' kingpins has dealt a huge blow to the terrorist network but Kenyan security forces should not be complacent.

"By cutting off key sources of funding and eliminating the masterminds, we have undermined the capacity for 'al-Shabaab' to state a devastating attack.

"However, vigilance should not be relaxed since the militants are still roaming along the vast and porous border with Somalia," said Mbijiwe.

Kenya should replicate models on effective intelligence gathering from Israel, China and the United States to deter terror attacks.

Mbijiwe noted that though terror is a global challenge, some countries have contained it thanks to investments in surveillance technology and efficient coordination among security agencies.

"Officers from the national intelligence service should not operate from the offices.

"They should penetrate the grassroots to collect real-time information to help foil terrorists’ plots," Mbijiwe noted.

Kenya’s vast and lawless border with Somalia has provided a safe passage for 'al-Shabaab' militants and their collaborators.

Mbijiwe emphasized that Kenya must retrain and equip border patrol guards to enable them to apprehend infiltrators.

"Heavily armed militants are able to shuttle between Somalia and Kenya to carry out their evil mission.

"We must enhance patrols at this porous borders," said Mbijjiwe.

Kenya has lost an estimated 200 people from terrorism in 2014.

Senor officials said on Saturday that a major offensive was launched to nab the militants who killed bus passengers in Mandera.

Leaders from across the political and religious divide expressed outrage over the slaughter of innocent civilians.

"Mandera has recorded the highest incidents of terror attacks after Mombasa and Nairobi this year.

"We have raised this issue to authorities before yet the response has not been robust," said Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow, urging security personnel to act promptly on intelligence reports about impending terror attack.

Pundits who spoke to the national media after Mandera terror attack regretted that haphazard response to this challenge was to blame for untimely loss of lives.

"Our response to the threat of terrorism is not coherent and there is need to invest more in deterrent measures.

"We must address inter-tribal skirmishes that have provided a bleeding ground for terrorism in the northern rangelands," remarked Benji Ndolo, a political analyst.

Andrew Frankline, a security analyst shared Ndolo’s sentiments, and stressed that Kenyan security apparatus must reinvent the wheel in order to combat terrorism effectively.

"Apparently, terrorists have acquired a certain level of sophistication to enable them to evade the security dragnet.

"The public should share intelligence on terror suspects living in their midst," Frankline said.


IGAD pledges support for Kenya after deadly bus attack

by David Musyoka and Njoroge Kaburo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A East Africa’s bloc on Monday joined the international community in condemning the deadly terror attack on a commuter bus in northern Kenya on Saturday that left 28 people dead.

Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), called for those responsible "to be brought to justice swiftly."

"IGAD stands resolute with the people and government of Kenya in this fight to ensure the safety and security of all citizens and visitors without distinction of faith, race, creed, or other social or economic standing," Maalim said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

He conveyed heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims on his own behalf and that of the entire region.

The IGAD chief also expressed his solidarity with the people and the government of Kenya, concluding that there can be absolutely no justification for such acts that occurred in Mandera.

The statement comes after about 15 heavily armed gunmen hijacked a passenger bus and all the passengers asked to come down where they separated Christians from Muslims.

The Christians, 19 men and 9 women, were then sprayed with bullets.

'al-Shabaab' later claimed responsibility for the act which comes amid crackdown on radicalized Muslim youth in the coastal city of Mombasa.

The group said the killing outside Mandera was in retaliation to raids on mosques and mistreatment of Muslims in Mombasa County.

Deputy President William Ruto announced on Sunday evening that those who carried out the bus attack did not live to "enjoy" the act.

"Our retaliatory action left in its trail more than 100 fatalities.

"It also destroyed four technicals and the camp from which this crime was planned," Ruto said.

However, the militants have denied the allegations, saying all the militiamen who carried out the massacre returned to their bases safely.

The Mandera bus attack follows a string of bombings and killings in the town in recent months.

The East African nation continues to suffer several attacks as terrorists change tuck to beat heightened security and carry on with their attacks.

There have been attacks involving shootings, grenades, or other explosive devices in Kenya. Most of these attacks occurred in northeastern Kenya, mainly in Dadaab, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera counties, as well as along the Kenyan coast.


UN Security Council slams deadly terrorist attack on bus in northern Kenya

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Monday strongly condemned the attack on a commuter bus in northern Kenya, which killed at least 28 people Saturday, saying "terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security."

"The members of the Security Council strongly condemn Saturday’ s attack in Mandera, Kenya for which Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility and which has caused the deaths of numerous innocent people," said the 15-nation UN body in a statement issued here to the press.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivation, wherever and whenever and by whomsoever committed, said the statement.

The Council reiterated their determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with their responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.

They underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice and urged all states, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with relevant regional authorities in this regard, said the statement.

The Security Council also urged countries to ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, and reiterated their resolute and long-standing support to all actors working to end the threat posed by 'al-Shabaab' in the region.

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and voiced his hope that "those responsible for today’s attack will be brought to justice swiftly."

'al-Shabaab' militants attacked the bus early Saturday.

The bus was traveling to the capital, Nairobi, when it was stopped in Mandera county, not far from the Somali border.

A statement on a website linked to the Islamist group said the Saturday attack was staged in retaliation for security raids on mosques in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa earlier this week, reports said.

Since Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia in 2011, northern and parts of eastern Kenya have been hit by a series of blasts, with many targeting local security forces and humanitarian workers.


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