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Craft better strategy to end terror attacks

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By EDITORIAL
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Terrorists have struck once again  and visited pain and anguish on our land. It is too early to determine the full details of the devastation — at least five people had been recorded killed and many others injured — but clearly it is another of those horrifying moments in our national psyche when the security is thoroughly challenged and citizens left traumatised.

We commiserate with the families of those killed and those injured in the attack at the Dusit complex on Riverside Drive, Nairobi. At the same time, we commend the efforts by the security personnel to fight back and rescue the victims. Members of the public also came out powerfully to support the rescue operations, demonstrating unity of purpose in the face of adversity.

Despite what happened, we must restate that this latest attack will not kill our spirit. The designs of the evil doers will not triumph over good. Neither will it drive a wedge between Kenya and its friends, neighbours and partners, which is what the perpetrators of the evil designs seek to achieve. True, Kenya has suffered immensely from terror attacks but that cannot extinguish the determination to fight the evil forces.

But this new attack is another reminder that security remains a critical challenge. We are not out of the woods yet and a lot must be done to seal the loopholes that allow criminals to get into the country and inflict pain and death on citizens.

For a while, the country has savoured relative calm and peace. The last horrendous incident was in 2015, when Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked Garissa University College and killed 147 people, most of them students. Two years earlier, the same gang had attacked Westgate Mall in Nairobi, leaving 67 people dead and tens injured.

Since 1998, when terrorists attacked the US embassy in Nairobi and killed more than 200 people and injured hundreds others — simultaneously hitting the US embassy in Dar es Salaam and inflicting much anguish — Kenya has witnessed a series of invasions that tested our security capacity to the limits.

Kenya is a victim of insecurity in neighbouring Somalia, which has been a theatre of violent conflicts for nearly three decades following the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre. The lawlessness in that country, now divided into different territories, has bred terrorists who have consistently organised cross-border attacks and retreated to their backyards where they vanish with ease.

It is for this reason that Kenya has been participating in the joint United Nations and African Union initiative to bring peace to Somalia. Since 2011, the country has had troops in Somalia under the auspices of Amisom, locally tagged, “Operation Linda Nchi”, to fight the militants in their territory and protect our borders. The operation remains a subject of debate though.

But gains have been realised. The terrorists have been pulped and tamed. The frequency of incursions has reduced. But, there have been painful moments. Exactly three years ago, the militants attacked a Kenya Defence Forces camp at El Adde, in Somalia, killing tens of our soldiers and injuring many others. This remains a blot on the history of the peace mission.

Tragically, yesterday’s attack came exactly three years after Al Adde — an indication that the criminals work with some bizarre milestones. Just when we thought that things we calm, the gangs unleashed mayhem. Another coincidence is that, just on Monday, a Nairobi court ruled that some three people accused playing a role in the Westgate attack should be committed to trial. One suspect was, however, freed for lack of evidence.

For Kenyans, the chilling reality is that the attacks are not ceasing. After every attack, security authorities and the government give assurances of vanquishing the gangs and securing our borders. But the attacks recur. The question is, for how long will this continue? After nearly two decades of terrorism experience, has the country not devised a system to forestall the raids or devised plans for thrashing the criminals and rescuing captives?

At the heart of the matter is the question of surveillance. The success of any security system depends on intelligence operations; ability to detect and prevent criminal activities. Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet stated that the security agencies managed to guarantee safety over the festive season through close stakeout that prevented crime. However, what happened at Riverside shows the security agencies were caught off-guard.

They must intensify its security surveillance locally as they fight the militants across the border. Time has come when we must completely exterminate the criminals and secure our territory.

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