, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 7 – Kenya has paid heavily in the ever-changing threat of terror, which remains real according to local security agencies.
Other than pockets of attacks that have claimed tens of lives, Kenya has had three major terrorist attacks by the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab in recent years.
On September 21, 2013, the militia killed 67 people in an attack at the Westgate Mall.
Between June 15 and 16, 2014, the same terror group launched a major attack in Mpeketoni area of Lamu County, claiming 60 lives.
On April 2, 2015, one hundred and forty-eight students of Garissa University College were killed by terrorists and 79 others injured in one of the worst attacks in Kenyan history.
All these attacks were characterised by travel advisories that worsened an already a wanting situation and even “emboldened the terrorists” according to National Counter Terrorism Centre Director, Ambassador Martin Kimani.
– Global Terror –
In a period of three months, Britain has been attacked thrice by terrorists, proving just how vulnerable the world has become.
In all the attacks, they used what seemed as “simple” tactics but effective, since lives were lost.
Former National Security Agency Analyst and Counter Intelligence Officer in Britain, John Schindler writing in the Observer, warns that if Britain doesn’t soon devise tough counter measures to its vast domestic jihadist problem “many of its cities may come to resemble Northern Ireland a generation ago, with armed soldiers in battle gear patrolling the streets as “aid to civil power” while enforcing frequent security checks on average citizens with the aim of stopping terrorists.”
According to him, British intelligence estimates that the number of jihadists in the country is a staggering 23,000 people – of whom 3,000 pose a potentially imminent threat to public safety.
“Moreover, even if the number of potential terrorists requiring close watching by the secret state is “only” 3,000, that target pool vastly exceeds the capabilities of British intelligence,” he points out.
“Although little is understood by the public, maintaining effective 24/7 human and technical surveillance is enormously costly in manpower and resources, even for top-notch security services like MI5.
A good rule of thumb is you need two dozen operatives to closely watch one suspect. In other words, it’s severely challenging for British police and spooks to keep even 300 potential terrorists under constant surveillance – much less 10 times that number.
He says the UK must adopt a robust counter violent extremism programme, if sanity will continue to prevail.
And just like in Kenya, he says, some of the attacks could have been as a result of “intelligence failure.”
“The reality which European politicians refuse to face is that there is no intelligence solution to the jihadist problem which now exists in Britain and France, which possess large populations of angry Muslims, a certain percentage of whom are truly radical,” he says.
And he admits that terrorists have adopted new skills to execute their evil plans unlike when they would use sophisticated weapons.
For example, the Manchester terror attack that killed 22 people, mostly children, an IED was used while in the recent London Bridge incident, the attackers used a vehicle to plough into pedestrians while others used knives in the nearby Borough Market.
Seven people died in the attack while all the three assailants were killed by police.
– British PM’s tough stance –
It is a trend that has led to Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May’s declaration of “enough is enough.”
May said the current security challenges in Britain and the world cannot be eliminated by “military intervention only.”
“It will not be defeated by the maintenance of a permanent defensive counter-terrorism operation, however skilful its leaders and practitioners.”
“It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values – pluralistic British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate,” were her words on June 4, after the London Bridge attack.
She said Britain’s “robust counter-terrorism strategy that has proved successful over many years” needed to be amended since the nature of the threat “we face becomes more complex, more fragmented, more hidden, especially online, the strategy needs to keep up.”
“So in light of what we are learning about the changing threat, we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need.”
She added: “And if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorist-related offences – even apparently less serious offences – that is what we will do.”
On December 19, 2014, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Security Bill which was passed amid exchange of blows in Parliament.
It was a “necessary” move according to security agencies who had for long cited legal loopholes in fighting the Islamists militants.
The security laws gave police powers to hold terror suspects for more days and provides hefty fines including long jail terms for those found guilty.
What will be the next move for Britain and other Western democracies in fighting terror?
Whatever the measures, Kenya has urged the globe to unite in fighting the menace through a common approach.
Kenya’s National Counter Terrorism Centre boss says travel advisories, usually issued mostly to Africa Countries only embolden terrorists.
“This is a time when all democratic countries and all free people need to stand together against extremism and terrorism because, at the heart of this security challenges, it is a hatred of freedom, diversity and the freedoms that we hold so dear here in Kenya,” Kimani said during a past interview with Capital FM News.
“The attacks by terrorist groups do not discriminate between countries; the response now needs to become a brave response that sees that we are all in this together.”
“When travel advisories are issued in Kenya, it let the terrorist win because that is what they want to achieve. Our friends should now allow the terrorist to have such a victory.”
Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet also says there is the need for enhanced intelligence sharing among security agencies in the world.
He says the recent attacks in some of the developed countries with sophisticated security apparatus is just proof of how the threat is real.
Schindler, who is also a former Navy officer and a War College professor in Britain, on his part says unless drastic measures are adopted, the jihadist problem will continue.
To him, more effective measures must be adopted other than “prayers, ritualistic incantations of togetherness and hashtags proclaiming strength.”