The Kenyan government has established the African continent's first counter-terrorism center to help develop and coordinate strategies in east Africa.
Kenyan officials say the new National Counter-Terrorism Center, headquartered in Nairobi, will perform multiple functions in the fight against terror.
In addition to intelligence gathering and developing Kenya's long-term counter-terrorism strategy, the center will investigate money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and illegal arms proliferation.
Kenya's intelligence agency, the National Security Intelligence Service, will oversee the new center.
The country's assistant minister for national security, Steven Tarus, will not say how many intelligence and law enforcement agents have been hired to staff the new counter-terrorism office. But he says he is confident the center has enough resources to achieve its main objective of preventing and disrupting terrorist activities in Kenya.
Mr. Taurus adds that such a center is long overdue in a country that has been the target of two separate al-Qaida related attacks in the past five years.
In August 1998, a car bomb destroyed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Then, in November 2002, an Israeli-owned hotel in the coastal city of Mombasa was bombed minutes before attackers tried to shoot down an Israeli plane.
"We have been relying on existing security systems in the past," said Mr. Taurus. "But you realize now that we need people who are adequately trained, adequately exposed, and who also can implement the country's strategic requirements as far as terrorist issues are concerned. Kenya has suffered in the past as a result of terrorist activities and it is the responsibility of the government of Kenya to ensure that its people and its country is secure."
The United States, Kenya's biggest partner in the war against terror, has welcomed Kenya's initiative. The spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Peter Claussen, says helping to ensure the success of the counter-terrorism center will be a priority for the embassy.
"The president has promised aid for east Africa counter-terrorism assistance and the embassy is committed to making that promise good," said Mr. Claussen. "The counter-terrorism center will give us a good place to start."
Kenya is one of several key regional partners in the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa. Based in Djibouti, the task force was formed nearly a year and a half ago to fight transnational terrorism.