By David James
Terrorism in Kenya has become a problem that is far beyond state agencies capability to detect and pre-empt. This should not be the case. Terrorist attacks in Kenya follow a predictable planning process which can be easily detected by the intelligence service. In fact the entire planning process happens here in Kenya.
Spectacle of Terrorism Actors
Malls provide the most attractive platforms to perform spectacular and extremely viral psychological effect that can last months as hype in all forms of media.
Terrorists in Kenya are targeting two key malls.
The Thika Road Mall (TRM) situated along the Thika super highway.
Twin attacks on buses ferrying passengers towards the direction of estates near the mall served as both terrorist attacks and dry runs.
Actors posing as civilians measured both security and emergency responses to the terrorist’s attacks. Crowds milled towards the scenes of crime while mall security shifted focus from the mall to the crime.
The objective was to identify the minimum threshold of distraction of security arrangements and use the split second to make a spectacular dash into the mall using a car bomb followed by armed men. This is the type of attack the leader of Al-Shabaab boasted about in his video. The type of attack on the TRM mall could be both a hostage and suicide mission.
Terrorist’s plans are that they repeat a Westgate type attack to prove they can strike Kenya again.
The Nakumatta Nyali mall in Mombasa is also a target. Terrorists plan to use the same spectacular strategies to prove their capability.
Both malls have no easy exits hence those trapped inside will only be cornered inside the buildings. This makes them easy targets for such terror attacks.
Factors Considered by Terrorists to Chose these Malls
Both malls are located along economic hubs and feeder roads.
Nyali is a leafy upmarket estate. 80% of tourists in Mombasa love to visit the mall for its vast array of high-end and beautiful shops, coffee shops, top brand shops, bars, and eateries. The mall is situated along the road to prestigious holiday destinations such as Sarova Whitesands. The economic value of the road, the mall, and the tourism industry is the target.
Thika Road Mall lies along the new Thika Super Highway. This highway is the pride of Kenya and it is the only such highway in East and Central Africa. TRM mall is near the prestigious Safari Park hotel a key tourist destination. The mall is also near the Kasarani sports centre and government research institutes.
Ramifications of effective attacks
a) Denting government apparatus image; Successful terror operations often showcase better operational capability and intelligence gathering capacity.
i) It makes state agencies become subjects of media backlash and civilian outrage on security lapses.
ii) Recruiting and inspiring support from communities that are linked to members of the terror group. Success itself is a convincing aspect. It popularizes the terrorists.
How to pre-empt these terror attacks
Securing these malls with police presence is not enough. Sealing the entry points is the most important step.
Terrorists may use a suicide bomber to draw security officers to the gates to fend off an attack only for the main group of attackers climbing through the walls on the back and launching an attack after the police are distracted to the main gates.
Another anti-mall-terror attacks strategy is vehicle entry delay and thorough ‘passenger out ‘check.
Passengers must step out of the vehicle and the vehicle completely checked for explosives both under the vehicles body, inside all compartments, boots, and bonnet.
These measures will discourage terror attack planners from targeting those facilities and opt for other which we will continue to analyze and identify strategies of securing them.
While these two malls are the main targets, other malls in key towns and cities in Kenya must use the same security measures to pre-empt threats. This will help start the end of terrorism in Kenya.
David James is a web-based intelligence analyst. He has spent over 6 years studying terrorism trends, criminology, and intelligence analysis. He owns Strategic Intelligence and other online media.
You can contact the author by emailing him at [email protected]