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Westgate Attack- Nairobi Security Report September

Westgate Attack- Nairobi Security Report September

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Published by Mbute Wa Mbiyu
Westgate attack, recent Security Alert Nairobi
Westgate attack, recent Security Alert Nairobi

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Published by: Mbute Wa Mbiyu on Oct 03, 2013
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10/03/2013

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 The stand-out development countrywideduring the past fortnight was the spectacu-lar attack launched by Harakat al-Shabaabal-Mujahedin (HSM) militants against the
 Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
,the largest asymmetric operation thegroup has ever staged inside Kenya. Theincident, a Mumbai-
style ‘assault and siege’
operation, was the realisation of an objec-tive held by the Somali group since Ken-yan military intervention in Somalia in2011; from that time onwards, HSM hasbeen attempting to demonstrate to theKenyan government and people, as well asthe large foreign national presence here,that this intervention
 — 
seen by the groupas violating the religious and political free-dom of Somalia
 — 
 would come with blow-back. With more than 60 people, the majority civilians, dead and almost 200 injured
 — 
and more expected to be found during theongoing forensic investigation
 — 
this is themost serious instance of Islamist militancy in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of theUS embassy, and is therefore a major coupfor HSM. However, it is unlikely that itrepresents a decisive shift in the security environment of Nairobi or the widercountry. Such high-impact acts of militan-cy are rare for a variety of reasons, includ-ing cost, likelihood of detection, and post-incident governmental learning. As such, we are highly unlikely to see fur-ther such attacks even in the mediumterm. Instead, it is much more probablethat HSM, after a period of quiet, will try to launch more of the small-scale opera-tions for which it is best known in thiscountry, which are easier and less risky,but allow it to demonstrate a continuedpresence in Kenya in spite of security force actions to deny and disrupt them.Evidence of this approach was already  visible during the period, with a HSM at-tacks on police in
the North East’s
Man-dera town shortly after the Westgate inci-dent. Unusually for attacks on this naturein the province, HSM publicly claimedresponsibility for the Mandera attack,clearly to capitalise on attention they hadgarnered during the Nairobi siege. Also in the North East, two NGO facili-ties were attacked with small arms in sepa-rate incidents in
Dadaab
, although they  were both attributed not to HSM but toarmed criminals. Yet that in itself is prob-lematic, as part of a recent increase in the willingness of non-HSM local actors touse violence to settle social and commer-cial grievances, particularly in relation tothe presence of non-local Kenyans.
INSO Kenya is SupportedBy
 
Conidential
-
NGO use only
 
No copy, forward or sale
 
© INSO 2013
 
COUNTRY SUMMARY 
REPORT:
16-30 Sept 2013
The Internaonal NGO Safety Organisaon (INSO) is a registered charity in England & Walesno.1140276 and a company limited by guarantee no.7496737 
 
KEY POINTS
 
HSM attack of unpre-cedented scale on West-gate shopping centre inNairobi
 
Elevated level of HSMactivity in North Easternin wake of Nairobi at-tack 
 
Armed criminality targe-ting NGOs in Dadaab
 
INDEX
 
Nairobi
 
2
 
North East 
 
6
 
Coast 
 
9
 
Rift Valley
 
10
 
Map References
 
11
 
INSO Info Page
 
12
 
KENYA 
Issue 21
 
Page 2
 
The INSO Report 
-
Kenya
 
Nairobi Metropolitan Region
 Armed Siege of Westgate Shopping Centre
In the past fortnight, for the first time since 1998, Nairobifound itself the scene of a major instance of Islamist militan-cy, when more than a dozen al-Shabaab militants launched aMumbai-style assault and siege against the upmarket Westgateshopping centre on September 21
st
. At approximately 1240hrs on Saturday, during the peak com-mercial period, 10-15 militants armed with assault rifles andgrenades stormed into the shopping centre through its three
 Total Incidents 377NGO Incidents 12
main entrances, firing coolly but randomly at civilians
 — 
although subsequently allowing those who could demonstratethey were Muslims to go free.Before the first group of governmental security respondersarrived, more than two hours later, many of the more than 60fatalities (of which one was a Kenyan NGO staff member), and175 non-fatal casualties, had already been inflicted. Many oth-ers also remained trapped inside, including staff and/or family from four NGOs, having managed to hide themselves insideshops, bathrooms or other locations in the building. And by this time, the attackers are believed to have already taken doz-ens of hostages.
KDF-Led Breach Operation
 Thus began a three day siege inside the complex, which, inspite of repeated attempts by a KDF-led force, could not bebroken. The attackers were understood to have holed up intwo separate locations
 — 
inside the large Nakumatt supermarketon the ground floor, and in a premises on the second floor
 — 
from where they effectively repealed multiple penetration at-tempts over the coming days, using professional sniper and
 
Nairobi Met. Region Cont.
small unit tactics to do so. The first minor success scored by the KDF-led force, which was backed up by foreign military advisors, were the releaseof three hostages on Monday. However, by this time it wasalso becoming clear to the security forces that the assailants were much better prepared, both tactically and logistically,than had been initially thought, meaning that this minor suc-cess was unlikely to translate into a decisive end to the stand-off. Security force suspicions from that time that the attack-ers had in fact pre-placed equipment such as weaponry, am-munition and explosives were ultimately validated; a vehicle was later found in the basement car park that had been therefor more than a month, and used as an armoury for the at-tackers during the siege. As such, by Monday afternoon, the KDF had determined touse stronger tactics to get inside and end the situation. Tostart with, the force lit a generator located to the rear on fire
on Monday afternoon, to divert the assailants’ attention while
attempting to breach at the front of the complex. This is notthought to have succeeded, and this led to much of the de-struction inside the Nakumatt.On Tuesday, with the siege into its fourth day and no defini-tive gains made in penetrating the Nakumatt stronghold, theKenyan military made a fateful decision. After considering and abandoning other options, the army is believed to havedecided to rig and detonate an explosive device which col-lapsed the ceiling and upper floors of the Nakumatt on theattackers, none of whom are thought to have survived. While the government stated, on September 30
th
, that they believe there were no hostages remaining at the end of thesiege after all, this is impossible to believe and inconsistent with what was understood during the siege, with Red Crossestimates at the time of writing suggesting that 39 people re-main missing. This number may fall, but it is extremely un-likely that it will fall to zero.
Parsing HSM’s Responsibility
 
 That being said, there remains significant opacity regarding even some of the basic details of the incident, including thenumber and fate of the attackers, their national origins, and theprecise group responsible.On the latter subject, while al Shabaab has claimed responsibil-ity, what this means in practice remains unclear. It is likely thatal Qaeda, with whom al Shabaab has rhetorically (and in some ways, operationally) aligned itself, were involved at the manage-ment level, perhaps assisting in training, target selection andoperational protocols such as filtering out Muslims.Similarly, it is likely that the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC), alsoknown as al-Hijra, played some role, either indirect or moreimmediate. On the one hand, it is believed that at least some of the attackers were non-Somali Kenyans, which, if true, wouldstrongly point to MYC involvement in the recruitment stage atthe very least, given their central role in recruitment for al Sha-baab within Kenya. However, it is also probable that the MYC was more directly involved, for example in facilitating weaponry and operatives in Nairobi, and even perhaps at the operationalmanagement level.However, at its core this is understood to have been an al Sha-baab operation, launched in a manner consistent with their es-tablished operational parameters inside Kenya. It is moreoverfaithful to their oft-asserted strategic intent with regard to theKenyan government; since KDF military intervention in Soma-lia in 2011, al Shabaab has consistently stated that it is seeking to strike inside Kenyan territory for the purpose of demonstrat-ing costs to this military mission. And this was precisely themessage communicated via public channels by senior HSM fig-ures as the Westgate incident was ongoing.In this way, the underlying message HSM intended to com-municate with this attack is identical to that of its previous butsmaller kinetic operations in Kenya. All that differed, therefore,in this operation was the scale of its ambition
 — 
an ambitionthat, through a high degree of tactical sophistication (even withsimple weaponry), information security, and willingness to tar-get civilians, was powerfully realised.
 Absence of Forewarning
Most significantly, the attack seems to have come out of the
Page 3
 
The INSO Report 
-
Kenya
 

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