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Kenya: Grenade attacks ‘tactics of a dying outfit’

Saturday, May 05, 2012 

Police have released the photograph of a man they suspect was involved in the April 29 grenade attack on a church in Ngara, Nairobi.

The suspect, whose name was only given as “Amar”, is said to have returned to the country from Somalia together with others early this year. The photo circulated by the police is said to have been taken at a beach in Kismayu a few months ago.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere on Friday said that Al-Shabaab, through one of their leaders, Sheikh Ismail Ali, claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed to send more suicide bombers to Kenya.

The police boss called on Kenyans to volunteer information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts and warned that he was dangerous. He is believed to be in possession of a pistol, grenades and other explosives.

The recent grenade attacks in Kenya by suspected Al-Shabaab members are being seen as desperate tactics by the terror group, with reports indicating that support for Al-Qaeda and its various affiliates in the world is at its lowest among Muslims.

During the Ngara church attack last Sunday, the suspect hurled a grenade at worshippers, killing one and injuring 16 others. (READ: Police hunt for suspect who fled after killer blast)

The first attack targeting worshippers was on the evening of March 31 in Mombasa when terrorists hurled explosives at a Christian prayer meeting near a bus terminus.

Two people died and more than 25 others were injured in the explosion. Another explosion rocked a bar in the town on the same day.

On October 24, last year, a man died and eight others were injured in a grenade attack at a Nairobi bus terminus. The attack came hours after another grenade was hurled into Mwaura’s Bar in the City Centre.
The attacks are seen as a protest against the Kenya Defence Forces’ incursion into Somalia to fight the Al-Shabaab militants.

Interviews with religious leaders and government officials disclosed an attempt by the terror gang to stoke a religious war to win sympathy.

Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya’s organising secretary, toldSaturday Nation that some people were out to destabilise the country through religious hate-mongering.

He said they often hold inter-faith meetings involving Hindus, Christians and Muslims in Mombasa in a bid to cement harmony.

The high level of tolerance among various faiths in Kenya was also demonstrated when attempts by the ‘No’ side of the 2010 referendum on the Constitution to rally the Christians to reject it on the account of the entrenchment of enhanced kadhi’s courts failed.

The document was passed with an overwhelming majority.

Former Tourism minister Najib Balala dismissed the Al-Shabaab group’s new tactic, terming it “amateurish” and one that would not win Muslim sympathy.

Mombasa-based Catholic priest Gabriel Dollan said the churches that suffered grenade attacks should be investigated to find out if they preached extremism.

“Kenya is a highly tolerant country and the attacks would not amount to much in terms of attracting Christian anger. But it is also disturbing that police have not arrested anybody,” he said.
The Pew Research Centre’s Global Attitudes Project found that a year after the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda is now widely unpopular among Muslim publics.

Police have consistently named churches among places terrorists may attack. Others include bus stops, shopping malls; entertainment spots, market places and passenger services vehicles.

During the Christmas and Easter holidays, police advised churches against holding night vigils, warning they had no capacity to offer security to all churches.

Low-income estates lead in places with high concentration of churches. Places like Mathare, Kayole Kawangware, Kibera and Githurai have more than 10 churches each in a radius of less than a kilometre.

Al-Shabaab has warned that its war on Kenya will be indefinite unless the country pulls out its forces from Somalia.

Al-Shabaab, one of Africa’s most fearsome militant Islamist groups, has waged an insurgency against Somalia’s transitional government and its Ethiopian backers since 2006. Until towards the end of last year, it controlled most of southern Somalia.

The militants have, however, been pushed by the Africa Union Mission in Somalia with its commander, Major General Fred Mugisha, recently declaring victory over Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Mogadishu.

A year ago, Al-Shabaab controlled virtually all of the city of 1.5 million people with the western-backed Transitional Federal Government holding onto a tiny scrap of land around the presidential compound.

But in an 11-month anti-urban guerrilla warfare campaign, the 10,000-strong Amisom force of mostly Ugandan and Burundian troops systematically cleared out the extremists.

Their killing and bombing of innocent civilians as well as senior Muslim leaders has alienated the organisation from locals.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who headed Somali Islamist insurgent group Hizbul Islam until the party merged with Al-Shabaab in 2010, recently warned “our jihadist brothers in the Al-Shabaab movement against shedding the blood of the Muslim Somali people and killing innocent civilians in the name of Islam.”

The International Crisis Group has, however, warned against early celebration, terming the decision by Kenya to deploy thousands of troops in Somalia’s Juba Valley to wage war on Al-Shabaab as the biggest security gamble Kenya has taken in its 49-year-history.

“Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Country) was given the go-ahead with what has shown itself to be inadequate political, diplomatic and military preparation; the potential for getting bogged down is high.


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