Al-Shabaab militancy remains a major security threat to East Africa countries and especially to Kenya citing the country’s geographical location and proximity with Somalia, the home base of the terrorist group.
Since Kenya deployed KDF troops in Somalia to battle Al-Shabaab militant group in October 2011, the country has suffered regular but sporadic retaliatory attacks by the militant group.
Though Al-Shabaab over the years has to not been able to conduct attacks in urban cities including Nairobi and Mombasa, conflict and security think tanks calls on country’s security agencies to be on alert noting the Al-Qaeda linked militant group might take several years planning a major attack that would catch international attention similarly to what they did in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall attack five years ago.
Al-Shabaab capability to carry out bombing, gun attacks, and grenade assaults in urban areas has greatly reduced though the terror group has morphed into using Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices (RCIED) to targeting Kenyan security patrols especially in northeastern prefecture counties of the country.
Al-Shabaab has maintained an active cell in the vast Boni forest posing potent threat in the neighbouring villages of Lamu county. Lamu has experienced a spate of Al-Shabaab militancy for a number of years with surge of the terror group activities in the county being reported in the recent past months.
Since 2015, Al-Shabaab has increasingly tried to recruit youths outside its traditional hotspots at the Coast and in the North Eastern. The militant group has targeted vulnerable poor youths for recruitment, promising them a good life while ‘fighting for a cause’.
Intelligence reports has also showed that Al-Shabaab has fighters from other regions of Kenya including Central and Western Kenyan regions. The group also has targeted many Christian youths, who as recent converts to Islam are easy to manipulate and brainwash due to their limited understanding of the region.
Estimates in 2014 placed the figure of Kenyan fighters at around 25% of Al-Shabaab’s total forces. Poverty has made them easier targets for the group’s recruiting activities. The Kenyan insurgents can blend in with the general population of Kenya, and they are often harder to track by law enforcement.
Kenya most affected regions by Al-Shabaab militancy include, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River and Lamu Counties.
Neighbouring Tanzania has also seen a shift by militants from the Kenyan coast to the Pwani region of country, where Al-Shabaab has forged alliances with local militants and staged several attacks, many of which have passed without notice internationally.
Crackdowns by Tanzanian authorities have in turn forced some of the militants to migrate further south to Mozambique, which has seen a number of attacks in recent months.