Pressure mounts on gov't over Nairobi attack warnings
AFPNAIROBI--Pressure mounted on the Kenyan authorities a week after the Nairobi mall carnage amid questions over the fate of the missing and accusations Saturday that top brass failed to heed security warnings.
September 30, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed not to bow to the Shebab group that claimed the Westgate mall bloodbath and threatened more attacks if Kenya failed to pull its troops out of Somalia.
But his administration faced tough questions after the leaking of an intelligence report dated Sept. 13 that warned of an elevated risk, which some top officials said was treated too casually.
Senior security officials told AFP on condition of anonymity that an intelligence report warning of an attack had been sent to the treasury, interior, foreign and defense ministers, as well as the army chief.
“Briefs were made to them of increasing threat of terrorism and of plans to launch simultaneous attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa around September 13 and 20, 2013,” according to the report, quoted in the Nation newspaper.
The report also said Israel, which has close security ties with Kenya, had warned of plans to attack Israeli-owned property in September, a month that included several Jewish holidays.
The Westgate mall, popular with expatriates and wealthy Kenyans, is part owned by Israelis and had long been considered a prime target.
Lawmakers are to grill the head of the NIS intelligence agency that produced the report and other top brass on Monday.
One top security official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job said Kenya's security apparatus had been casual in its response to the flow of intelligence warnings.
“There is no way one can say there was no intelligence on this attack because those reports started trickling in from late last year. And they were specific with targets including Westgate,” he said.
“Whenever these reports come, they are shared all across the government with relevant authorities at high levels, but they still take them casually.”
The media have been awash with reports of the possible involvement in the brazen Sept. 21 commando operation of Samantha Lewthwaite, a white British woman with ties to jihadist groups.
Diplomats however have said there is no evidence linking the “White Widow” to the attack on the Westgate mall.
Analysts say instead that the scarce information available points to a key role played by militants based in Kenya, which has a large ethnic Somali community.
The United States issued an updated advisory on Friday warning of “the risks of travel to Kenya.” Other countries have also warned their citizens.
The Kenyan government reacted angrily, condemning the advisory as “unnecessary and uncalled for” and urging Washington to withdraw it.