Sabahi (Washington, DC)

Kenya: Westgate Attack Reveals Gaping Security Holes

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"In all honesty, this was the first time Kenya has witnessed such an audacious terrorist attack on a mall using guns," said Director of Police Reforms Jonathan Kosgei. "We knew of bombs, [but] this new style was hard to predict. However, the security forces did their best to contain the situation in the prevailing disadvantaged circumstances."

"This attack will probably precipitate a national debate [about] whether to arm security guards or not," he told Sabahi. "With only a wooden baton and a whistle, guards are so vulnerable and totally unable to stop an armed assault."

Another factor to consider is how Westgate revealed al-Shabaab's dramatic change in military tactics to commando-like operations, according to Western region Commissioner James ole Seriani.

"They want to inflict maximum damage which the roadside improvised explosive devices were not achieving," he told Sabahi. "It is the same tactic they used in Garissa last year when they stormed and opened fire in two churches and hotels leaving more than 20 dead."

The Westgate massacre is a wakeup call, Seriani said, and the public should be alert so that terrorists can be neutralised before they cross into Kenya.

The Kenyan government was blamed, too, for issuing conflicting information to the press as the terror at Westgate unfolded.

But Principal Secretary for Internal Security Mutea Iringo defended the government, saying it was deliberate tactic aimed at throwing the terrorists off balance.

"Silence is also a tactical weapon," he told Sabahi. "You do not want to engage in a public shouting match with a terrorist organisation."

While it was an unfortunate incident, Iringo said he hoped the Westgate attack would encourage world leaders to take action against al-Shabaab.

"Al-Shabaab is now not only a Somali headache but part and parcel of a global terrorist network that needs the world governments to dismantle," he said.

Top security officers are expected to appear before parliament next week as part of the investigation into the terrorist attack.

"The time for responsibility and accountability has come," defence committee chairman Ndung'u Gethenji said, according to Kenya's Daily Nation.

"We shall conduct a thorough, in-depth, incisive and unforgiving investigation into the events and the failures that led to the attack," he said at parliament shortly after his committee held a closed door meeting Thursday.

Gethenji said the joint committee, comprising members of the defence and national security committees, will call Kenya's intelligence chief, the Interior Cabinet Secretary, the Inspector General of Police and other top security officials to shed light on the attack.

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