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Security shuffle looms over the Westgate attack

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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A shake-up of security agencies could be in the offing in the wake of the September 21 terror attack on Westgate in which more than 70 people were killed and 240 others injured.

Government sources have told the Nation that the changes are being pushed by President Kenyatta’s close confidantes and advisors who think the security agencies did not respond effectively to the attack.

The President is on record as having said the response did not go as planned and has indicated that he will set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter.

Monday, the President is expected to be the chief guest during the Kenya Defence Forces Day at Laikipia Airbase in Nanyuki.

Government officials conversant with the latest developments told the Nation on condition anonymity that the likely changes could affect the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), the National Police Service (NPS) and the National Security Intelligence (NIS).

Besides a possible overhaul of the agencies’ command structures, the changes could also result in the retirement of some security chiefs.

Terrorism threats

It is debatable if such a wide-ranging security shake-up is likely at a time the country is at war in Somalia and faces terrorism threats.

It also remains to be seen if Mr Kenyatta will remove security bosses at a time when he and his deputy are spending some of their time defending themselves at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu yesterday said his office had not received any information about such plans.

“Whenever there is information, there will always be an announcement, but for now, there is nothing like it,” he said.

Fresh details have emerged indicating that the General Service Unit’s Recce Squad that stormed the Westgate Mall after the terrorist attack had taken control of most of the building before the entry of the Kenya Defence Forces who then took over the operation.

Sections of closed circuit television footage seen by the Nation show that barely two hours after the attack, officers from the Recce unit had taken control of most of the building before one of their own was shot in friendly fire.

Questions have been raised over the circumstances under which GSU Constable Martin Githinji was shot.

Days after the incident, Mr Kenyatta visited the Ruiru GSU base — the headquarters of the elite Recce Company — to condole with them over the death of Mr Githinji.

He told the officers that he was impressed with their services to the nation.

He also described Mr Githinji as a true representation of uniformed men and women, who gave their lives in the service of Kenyans.

The officers who were present said the President promised to push through the police reforms.

On the Westgate saga, sources have told the Nation that the NIS has been put on the spot over how it shared the intelligence it had that terrorists were planning an attack and the subsequent leaks of the intelligence briefs.

On the other hand, the Police Service — under whose command the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit falls — has questions to answer over why its officers failed to enhance security or to secure the Westgate Mall before the terrorists struck.

Meanwhile, CCTV footage obtained from Westgate has revealed that only five terrorists — not between 10 and 15 as initially claimed by the government officials — attacked the mall.

And apart from a terrorist who was shot during the initial rescue operation and who died while being treated at the Aga Khan University Hospital — the other three are believed to have escaped.

On the money that businesses at the mall lost during the attack, military spokesman Cyrus Oguna yesterday said over Sh300 million was secured and business owners have been allowed to take it back.

He said bankers at Westgate were allowed into the mall on September 25 to take an inventory of their businesses.

The following day, the bankers declared what they had found, and on September 27, they were allowed to transfer the money to other branches.

“This included the money from ATMs and strong rooms.

Barclays had two branches while the others were Diamond Trust, KCB, CFC Stanbic and there was also the Millionaires Casino and Nakumatt,” Col Oguna said.

On allegations of looting against KDF, he said: “Investigations are still on and we are waiting for the process to be completed. Anybody found culpable will be dealt with.


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