, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 21 – Security experts in Kenya have backed the findings of an inquiry into terror attacks near the country’s east coast that described a breakdown in communications between local and national arms of the police force.
The June 15-16 attacks by the Somali Islamist militant group Al Shabaab in the Lamu region killed more than 60 people.
An October 8 report by Kenya’s national police oversight body confirmed fears that the security agencies were hamstrung by competing claims of authority and a confused chain of command.
The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) found that the response to the attack on Mpeketoni was disorganised and came too late to stop the approximately 30 attackers.
As well as county-level police, specialised units commanded from Nairobi were dispatched to Mpeketoni, but got there late.
According to the IPOA report, one of these special units, the Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) left its base just 16 kilometres from the scene of the first attack just after 9pm on June 15, but it did not arrive until after midnight. Another, the General Service Unit (GSU), arrived at 3.30am on June 16, some six and-a-half hours after the start of the attack.
IPOA concluded that unacceptable delays occurred because police commanders at county level were unable to call on these locally-based special units without authorisation from central command in Nairobi.
“Prompt response failed because of conflicting orders and lack of a centralised command structure at the county level that could coordinate all the [National Police Service] resources in the region,” the report stated. “Therefore, senior officers in Nairobi played a key role in the inaction of these units or their late response.”
The report argued that a swifter response could have prevented subsequent raids. The Mpeketoni attack was followed by an incident in the nearby village of Kijijoni the next day. As of October, nearly 100 people have been killed in the coastal region.
Kenya has suffered a series of attacks by Al Shabaab over the last year. The militants say they are retaliating against the ongoing Kenyan military intervention in southern Somalia, which started in October 2011.
In September 2013, Al Shabaab militants seized control of the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, killing some 70 people and injuring hundreds of others.
The security services were subsequently criticised for a bungled rescue operation in which soldiers shot at police officers.