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Kenya's vulnerability to al-Shabab attacks remain high despite vigilance

(Xinhua)    13:54, January 17, 2019


Police officers keep vigil at the scene of a terror attack at the DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Jan. 16, 2019. (Xinhua/Joy Nabukewa)

NAIROBI, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Kenya should be prepared for a prolonged warfare with the Somalia-based al-Shabab militants whose capacity to evolve despite sustained military onslaught is profound, experts said on Wednesday.

The experts who spoke in the wake of an attack at a business complex in Nairobi carried out by al-Shabab militants, said that containing threats posed by terrorists is a challenge that Kenya must be ready to confront for the long haul.

George Musamali, a Nairobi-based security analyst, said the presence of Kenyan troops inside Somalia where they have intensified onslaught against al-Shabab remains the chief motivation behind the militants' frequent attacks targeting civilians and disciplined forces in the East African nation.

"As usual, al-Shabab would always want to strike Kenya to bolster their propaganda war against the so called 'enemy' who has deployed its troops to Somalia to vanquish the terrorist network," Musamali remarked.

Kenya deployed its troops to Somalia in October 2011 to help vanquish the al-Shabab militants whose frequent attacks against civilians was a threat to tourism and national security in the East Africa's major economy.

The al-Qaida linked militant group has in the last eight years carried out a series of attacks on the Kenyan soil to protest the presence of the country's troops in its strong hold of southern Somalia.

Musamali regretted that Kenya has borne the brunt of al-Shabab attacks since it became part of the African Union troops fighting a virulent and highly versatile armed group whose overriding goal is to establish "fiefdom" in Somalia.

"We should expect al-Shabab to continue targeting our troops or civilians as they seek to establish their own version of republic inside Somalia and beyond governed by extremist ideologies," said Musamali.

Kenya was in the global spotlight after a prolonged lull when al-Shabab fighters attacked the upscale 14 Riverside Drive business complex that houses a chain hotel dusitD2 and offices for a number of multinational companies.

The attack that claimed 14 innocent lives bore eerie semblance of a similar one carried out by al-Shabab in Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in September 2013 where more than 60 civilians died.

To prove its resilience in the face of sustained military onslaught in its strongholds of southern Somalia, al-Shabab has managed to stage a series of attacks in Kenya.

Though Kenya has upgraded its surveillance infrastructure to deter large scale attack by al-Shabab in the last three years, the militants have managed to hit soft targets like villages and schools along the border with Somalia.

Mwenda Mbijiwe, an ex-soldier and security consultant, said that Kenyan security apparatus should not underestimate the capacity of al-Shabab to reinvent itself and carry out deadly attacks despite losing territory and dozens of high ranking commanders.

"The attack at the Dusit complex in Nairobi was a testimony that al-Shabab can still conduct attacks inside the Kenyan soil despite high levels of vigilance," said Mbijiwe.

This armed group is versatile and seems determined to achieve its aim in Somalia and across the Horn of Africa region, he added.

He noted that al-Shabab has a growing army of local sympathizers and foot soldiers who have made its incursion into the Kenyan territory possible.

Werunga Simiyu, a Nairobi-based security expert, said that al-Shabab has retooled its military operations to remain relevant despite losing its top commanders and sources of funds following aggressive onslaught by foreign troops.

"The al-Shabab have suffered heavy losses in the last two to three years hence their inability to launch massive urban warfare like the one they carried out at the Westgate shopping mall in 2013," Simiyu said.

"But we should not be complacent since al-Shabab has a loose network of guerrilla fighters that can be deployed to big cities like Nairobi to conduct low scale attacks," he added.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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