The January 15 terrorist attack on an upscale hotel and office complex in Nairobi’s Westlands, in which at least 21 people were killed, has left the region scrambling to re-engineer its security arrangements to prevent further attacks.
Security experts in the region are seeking commitments to share intelligence to contain Al Shabaab, the Somalia-based Islamist militant group that is now believed to have split up into sub-groups, some of which are in competition in carrying out attacks in the region to catch the eye of bigger terror groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
The group uses its attacks in East Africa to raise its profile, seek new recruits and solicit funding, and Kenya has borne the brunt of these attacks, with the tourism sector being the worst hit.
In Uganda, the report says Al Shabaab has struggled to gain traction – in large part due to better integration of Somalis, and Muslims overall, into society.
However, Ugandan security forces have in recent years rounded up some Muslims, creating the potential for militancy.
The revelation that the attackers were Kenyans in sleeper cells inside the country gives credence to reports by security analysts that Al Shabaab has changed tactics, combining old and new methods in their terror campaign in the region, while avoiding appearing on the radar of security agencies.
A report by the International Crisis Group released last September, says that the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall on September 21, 2013, triggered a recruitment drive by Al Shabaab, and now the country is being attacked by militants from local cells. ICG says that the Westgate attack, in which 67 people were killed in a four-day siege, demonstrated Al Shabaab’s reach outside Somalia.
Police have also warned the public against falling victim of a fake terror alert message circulating on social media platforms.
Addressing journalists on Monday, Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said they have not issued any terror alert in the wake of the attack in Nairobi last week, asking the public to disregard the purported terror alert.
“We have noted with serious concern falsified terror alerts warning of a terror attack two weeks from the Nairobi attack. We want to disregard such fake terror alerts which are meant to give publicity and credit to terrorists. The country has no specific threats,”Enanga said on Monday morning.
He explained that the circulating fake alerts claim there is a lady under the names Violet Kemunto also known as Khadija who is alleged to be wanted by the Kenyan police and that he entered Uganda.
The Police mouthpiece said the circulating document is not official before asking the public to disregard it and the contents.
Enanga however said despite any circumstances, the security apparatus for Uganda remains on alert to avert any attack on the country by terrorists.
“The police and sister security agencies actively continue to monitor the situation and share information with regional counterparts,” he said.