Morphing and Adaptation of Al-Qaeda’s Al-Shabaab Terrorists in Kenya-Somali Frontier Province

On Friday 10th February 2017 at around 0400hrs EAT, 30 men donning African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops and Kenya Police uniforms pitched a roadblock between Dadajabura and Sarif  (approximately 6kilometers from Dadajabura) areas of  Wajir County in NEP Kenya.

Two public service buses (Zafex and Sagal Bus Services: KBT 716H and KBW 181E) ferrying passengers between Diff and Garissa area were stopped at the roadblock. The bus crews obliged thinking the roadblock was manned by regular joint task force of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) and the National Police Service (NPS) officers.

The men manning the roadblock opened fire at the passengers and crews killing the male conductor of the Sagal bus, Mr Abdifatah Ali Hassan. 3 passengers were shot and one is in critical condition. The heavily armed men robbed passengers of their valuables including money and cellphones.

ANALYSIS

The Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen Movement (HSM) commonly referenced as Al-Shabaab conducted a low-scale terror attack targeting 2 night public service buses ferrying passengers between Diff and Garissa areas of the North Eastern Province region of Kenya and along the border with the war torn Somalia.

It was later established that the buses were transporting contraband and dozens of aliens. Intelligence services in Kenya are verifying the identities of the aliens who the terrorists spared. The contraband included a significant amount of rice and sugar bags.

One person was killed and 3 others injured in the attack. The attack signals a shift in tactical strategy and adaptation of the terrorist group which has failed to expand its foothold in Gedo and Juba borderline regions of Somalia. Afraid of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) border patrol and security units manning the border and the KDF-AMISOM Contingent stationed in AMISOM SECTOR 2, the Al-Shabaab is opting morphing and adapting to local environment and demographics to remain relevant.

Despite mounting attacks against AMISOM troops in Somalia and police in Kenya, Al-Shabaab is also exhibiting and practising guerilla tactics, thus still an enemy with ability to morph, adapt, and orchestrate an insurgency. Most notable in the incident is the use of Police and AMISOM troop’s uniforms to set up a roadblock then abusing the innocent civilians at close quarters.

In the past, Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen Movement (HSM) mounted attacks against passenger vehicles from the bushes before taking off. This new tactic shows a predetermined approach. It means the terrorists have been stealing from AMISOM Contingents and Kenya Police as part of their greater strategy. The greater strategy here is using disguise and impersonation to increase success ratio. For Example, using a Land Cruiser pickup painted in AMISOM camouflage with a dozen terrorists clad in AMISOM Army caps, fatigues and boots, the militants can breach a Somali police post or Somali Army Forward Operating Base (FOB) in any AMISOM SECTOR. The terrorists can use the stolen Kenya Police land cruisers to access a police station, mall, church, even a government office complex and conduct an SVBIED attack followed by a gun attack.

The militants have in the recent past attacked all AMISOM contributing countries, leaving all four countries (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ugand) vulnerable to attacks by disguised fighters.

The ideal deterrent to this new threat is accounting for all assets lost both in Somalia and Kenya. After accounting, zoning the vulnerable areas and ensuring all possible targets have secure communication with rapid response teams that verify and clear any vehicle and personnel deployed in the areas.

 

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