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Kenyan hotels, malls on alert over terror strike fears

Posted by Administrator on December 21, 2011

File | NATION Security officers screen motorists at Kiembeni Catholic Church in Kisauni, Mombasa. Police have warned Al-Shabaab militants may target places of worship, shopping malls and hotels this festive season.

File | NATION Security officers screen motorists at Kiembeni Catholic Church in Kisauni, Mombasa. Police have warned Al-Shabaab militants may target places of worship, shopping malls and hotels this festive season.

Churches, hotels and shopping malls in Kenyan are among social places being provided with blanket security in an effort to prevent a terrorist attack this festive season.

Security services are at an unprecedented state of alert amid reports that Al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group, has dispatched bomb makers and assassins to eliminate Defence Minister Yusuf Haji and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim.

Interviews with various security officials revealed that a detailed operational plan was sent to commanders of security agencies on Wednesday.

The plan includes a guide to officers on terrorism prevention, detection and how to act in case of an emergency.

New measures have resulted in the security of selected ordinary public places being upgraded, albeit temporarily, to the status known in security parlance as “vital installations.”

Normally, vital installations would, among others, include airports, military barracks, police stations and foreign missions in Kenya.

This means the newly upgraded areas will be provided with the same level of security as the sensitive installations.

The new entrants into this category include some churches, hotels, selected entertainment joints, shopping malls as well as some media houses.

While the Nation could not establish the places that have been upgraded, an officer conversant with the arrangements mentioned a number of entertainment joints which are frequented by foreigners and shopping malls in upmarket city suburbs.

Vital installations are guarded by armed police officers and round-the-clock security surveillance done by teams of specially trained officers, mostly from the General Service Unit. Elite units from different security formations have been put on alert.

The operational plan also provides for joint command centres from which the different security agents would be coordinated in case of an emergency.
Emergency services have been on standby with rescue helicopters, ambulances, hospitals and volunteer services taking part.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said it was normal for State security to be accorded not only in places perceived to be under threat, but also to individuals “who have cause to fear for their well-being.”

“Police protection is always given to any person or even place under threat,” he said.

He added: “The management of such places is usually informed but in some cases it’s not. In such places, access by persons and vehicles must be controlled and surveillance maintained throughout.”

The new measures were put in place as it emerged that Al-Shabaab had entered the country and were targeting two senior government officials from North Eastern Province for elimination.

According to a letter seen by the Nation, those targeted by the Somali insurgents are Mr Haji and Mr Maalim.

A letter from the permanent secretary in charge of Provincial Administration and Internal Security, Mr Francis Kimemia to North Eastern PC James ole Seriani said the Al-Shabaab operatives targeting the two entered the country on December 13.

“We have received information a group of Al-Shabaab operatives were dispatched from Lower Juba area in Somalia to Ijara and Lagdera constituencies on 13.12.11, with a brief to assassinate Minister Yussuf Haji and Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim,” said the letter.

It adds that the militia had also dispatched some unidentified explosives experts from Buale area in Somalia, to attack Habaswein and Elwak markets in Wajir and Mandera, respectively.

“Al-Shabaab appears determined to continue pursuing targets in Kenya. You should continue with security vigilance to deter infiltration and also apprise (sic) the targeted officials of the new and persisting threats,” the letter titled “Situation Report” noted.

Al-Shabaab has, in the recent past, taken its propaganda to social media platforms like Twitter where they post messages threatening to attack both US and Kenyan interests.

On Monday, American officials said they are considering how to respond to Al-Shabaab’s use of Twitter.

The Somali militants have used their recently established Twitter account to boast about their actions and to taunt the Kenyan troops that entered the war-torn country in October.

US officials say they are concerned that Al-Shabaab’s Twitter messages, sent mostly in English, could attract recruits inside the United States.
Several Americans are known to have joined Al-Shabaab, with a few reported to have carried out suicide missions.

US authorities believe they may have legal authority to insist that Twitter, a private company based in San Francisco, close the Al-Shabaab account, which has close to 5,000 followers.

Trigger opposition

But such a move could trigger opposition on the grounds that the US government is violating the right to free speech.

The Obama administration has distanced itself from Kenya’s move into Somalia although it is believed to be supplying Kenyan forces with intelligence assistance.

In Coast, a central command is manned round the clock by officers from all agencies, including the police, military and the National Security Intelligence Service.

The base has detachments in Mombasa, Malindi, Kyunga and on sea where the Navy has taken control beyond the Kenyan waters into Somalia territory.

Besides the police and the military, a number of private security companies in urban centres have also been included in the new plan.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Kenyan+hotels+malls+on+alert+over+terror+strike+fears++/-/1056/1293732/-/j6pdxoz/-/index.html

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