News / Africa

Kenya Mall Attack Highlights Police Role in Fighting Terrorism

A Kenya General Service Unit policeman stands guard in the area around Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Sept. 25, 2013.
A Kenya General Service Unit policeman stands guard in the area around Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Sept. 25, 2013.
Anita Powell
A terrorist attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi highlighted the importance of police in fighting terrorism. Kenyan police - many of them without adequate protection such as flak jackets - were the first to rush to the scene of the four-day siege that left at least 67 people dead and 61 missing. Security analysts say African nations need to emphasize the role of police in fighting terrorism. 
 
The first people to rush to the scene of the shooting in Nairobi’s upscale Westgate mall were regular policemen.
 
They bore little resemblance to the heavily armed soldiers and elite police units who moved in with assault rifles as the four-day siege unfolded and gunmen from Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group executed shoppers and seized hostages.
 
Most of that first line of police officers weren’t even wearing uniforms and lacked basic protections such as bulletproof jackets and helmets. Most carried handguns - a poor match for well-equipped, heavily armed militants.
 
Kenyans say they’re moved by these initial images broadcast around the world. Like the policeman who balanced a baby on the barrel of his rifle and carried the child outside. Or the cop who clutched his wounded stomach while covering the back of his colleague as he scanned for gunmen inside the mall. Or the young cop in the checked shirt who was photographed numerous times, escorting women and children to safety.
 
Bethuel Kiplagat, founder of the Africa Peace Forum, a Nairobi-based think tank that focuses on peace and security, said Kenya’s people appreciate their bravery.
 
“In the circumstances I think they did a marvellous [job], they risked their lives,  we all salute them as the president did yesterday," Kiplagat said. "We have lost some of our gallant soldiers and policemen in this remarkable rescue operation which they undertook.”
 
Anneli Botha, a senior terrorism researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, recently returned from Nairobi, where she was helping train Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit. That’s the elite unit that was seen going in to the mall as the siege continued. She said the police response was initially “chaotic,” but that they overall did a good job.
 
Botha, a former South African police captain, said all police have a role to play in fighting terrorism. Police, she said, have the opportunity to gather intelligence on the ground and to investigate cases fully. Leaning on the military, as she noted Nigeria has done in the past, often leaves out an essential weapon in fighting terrorism: the justice process.
 
“Not a lot of countries appreciate that role. They often think of counterterrorism as a short-term initiative," Botha remarked, "it’s a question of you know what, you identify the bad guy, you catch him - or you eliminate him, in some countries. But we would prefer to [have] more of a situation where we start to use the law and to play according to the rules provided by the law. So you respect due process, you respect the rule of law, you respect human rights.” 
 
J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and an advisor to United States Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, said although Kenya’s military has had success fighting al-Shabab in Somalia, soldiers have less of a place fighting terrorism at home.
 
"There's no way the attack on the Westgate shopping center could have occurred without al-Shabab spending weeks, if not months, doing reconnaissance, planning carefully, perhaps even doing dry runs of their plan," Pham said. "That doesn't happen without safe houses, without supporters, and you can't turn the military against that. You need policing, intelligence and those are capacities that are very, very different than the military's tool kit. And so just as much as the military needs to be reinforced, you also need to build up the civilian policing and law enforcement and intelligence capabilities."
 
And Botha said that even nations that are considered to be at little risk for terrorist attacks - such as South Africa - need to boost up their counterterrorism police efforts.
 
A spokesman for South Africa’s elite Hawks police unit said this week that they were looking into the possibility that al-Shabab used this country to raise funds and recruit fighters. He declined to give many details of that ongoing investigation.

VOA West Africa Correspondent Anne Look contributed to this report

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid