27 January 2014

Kenya Security Agencies Ignored Westgate Warnings

Kenyan security agencies ignored warnings of impending attacks days before al-Shabaab gunmen stormed the Westgate shopping mall in September, the parliamentary committee investigating the incident revealed in its report, Kenya's Daily Nation reported Saturday (January 25th).

Warnings of an attack were made in August and again just 19 days before the September 21st siege on Westgate, when gunmen stormed the upmarket mall hurling grenades and shooting shoppers and staff, the Joint Committee on Administration and National Security, and Defence and Foreign Affairs said in its report.

"There was general information on the impending terror attack on all the malls and other strategic Western interests, especially in Nairobi. The information was made available to the relevant security officers in Nairobi County on August 6, 2013, and on September 2, 2013," the report said.

Another security report released exactly one year before the Westgate siege began specifically said al-Shabaab was planning to attack the shopping complex.

"Another intelligence briefing in February 2013 warned of attacks like those that happened in Mumbai in late 2008, where the operatives storm a building with guns and grenades and probably hold hostages," the report said. "It is unclear what measures were put in place to prevent the attacks."

It also said Kenya's General Service Unit (GSU) police had the perpetrators of the attacks cornered in the mall, but lost them when the military assumed control over the operation.

The report is also critical of how various security forces -- including police, army and special forces -- handled the four-day siege, noting the "poor co-ordination by the multi-agency forces during the operation".

It also criticised a "nationwide systemic failure" of the immigration department, with widespread corruption in the issuance of identity cards.

The report is expected to be discussed when parliament reopens next month.

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