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

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs