Friday, September 27, 2013

Kenya: Update--Kenyan Military Caused Collapse of Three Floors of Westgate Mall

According to The Associated Press, Kenya's military caused the massive collapse of three floors of Nairobi's Westgate Mall during the terrorist siege in which at least 67 people died.

When asked Friday (September 27) if military action against the hostage-takers caused the collapse, an unnamed Kenyan official answered: "Yes." The official also confirmed that Kenyan troops fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) inside the mall, but would not say what was used to cause the collapse.

It is believed the collapse of the floors helped to bring an end to the four-day siege at the mall, but it may have killed hostages still inside the mall.

Investigators are tracing the car's ownership after it was retrieved outside the mall, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to reveal such details while the investigation is ongoing. Investigators are looking at more vehicles that may have been used by the attackers, he said, but gave no more details.

COMMENT: Despite the the fact that Kenyan police have received upwards of countless million of dollars in anti-terrorism training  from a number of developed foreign governments since the events of September 11, 2001, it is unlikely that this training has had any measurable effect in Kenya's war on terrorism, albeit ineffective.

Kenyan police have given little information since the attack that shocked this East African nation, saying the investigation has only just begun into the storming of the mall on Saturday by Islamic militants throwing grenades and shooting assault rifles.

FBI agents—along with investigators from Britain, Canada and Germany—have been dispatched to investigate the crime scene, yet there have been few conclusions made as to how extremists of al-Shabaab thwarted security of the upscale mall that is a magnet for expatriates and wealthy Kenyans.

Unfortunately, Kenyan police are saying very little, in what potentially could be yet another botched operation at the hands of police, who have little to no successes in recent years.

The Kenyan Red Cross says 61 people remain missing and many worry their bodies may be buried in the destroyed part of the mall, though the government has insisted few victims are believed to still be inside.

The government says at least 67 people were killed in the assault by upwards of fifteen al-Shabaab militants, including 61 civilians and six members of security forces. Five militants also were killed, but questions remained about the fate of the remaining attackers and fears persisted that some had managed to escape.

As I have said several times in the past, it is still a remote possibility, given the confusion in Nairobi as Kenyans and expats try to put their lives back together, that low-intensity attacks could still occur in Kenya, which is why it is so important for the expat community to do the following:

1. Put pressure on the Kenyans to quickly account for the missing and dead so as to credibly determine the human magnitude of the attack;

2. Foreign embassies, particularly those who sustained casualties, should pressure the Foreign Ministry to promptly be transparent in disseminating information on the mall takeover; and

3. Like most things in Kenya, everything moves at a snail's pace, particularly following a terrorist incident, yet the expat community needs to pressure the police, known for its bureaucracy, to move promptly before another attack occurs.  

This will  not be Kenya's mass-casualty terrorist incident; there will be more, largely because of dysfunction within the police structure and because Kenya's security forces need to be one step ahead of the bad guys, which they are not.