By: Herbert Ogwal
The terrorists have hit Nairobi again. This time it was not Wesgate or El Adde but the Riverside Complex killing an unconfirmed number of people (15 according to other sources and 45 according to Al shabbaab sympathizers) and leaving scores injured.
That this is a barbaric attack cannot be disputed and I condole with our brothers and sisters in Kenya.
However, it’s imperative that we learn from such incidents and explore ways of minimizing chances of their reoccurrence.
In part 1 of a series of my analysis of this terror attack, I will try to look through the incident and see if there are certain things Kenyan security can do better.
Lets take a look at what has been reported about the incident by the different sources particularly looking at the series of events and pick some talking points.
The media reports that there was a coordinated attack at the Riverside complex with the main target being the DusitD2 Hotel.
The word coordinated may not have easily surfaced many times in earlier attacks in the region as it has this time and this is not by mistake.
Most of the attacks that occurred earlier were indeed more lethal but lacked as much coordination as this one.
What this means is that the terrorists are becoming more and more organized, planning their activities in a manner that will not only bring out maximum damage and publicity but also show the world that they can be organized and indeed a force to reckon with.
It is also meant to show the world that they are better than some of the demeaning descriptions used against them by leaders of the world.
The reports also indicate that the attack was more complex than ever before. The terrorists came in three cars and accessed the complex through the main gate.
First of all, they did not kill the guards at the gate but just scared them off; then they exploded a car bomb within the premises as they entered the building firing before accessing the main target through the kitchen door.
It is also reported that they had suicide bombers too. The reason they left the guards to run was because they did not want to fire bullets and alert forces and other people which would compromise their mission.
Cameras show them walking through the compound like they owned the place firing their way in. The car bomb was meant to be a distraction for any would be first responders (Security Forces) to the crime scene to try and jeopardize their mission; and the suicide bombers opened the way. Even the car left at the gate was a scare crow to keep advancing response forces pondering their options first not knowing whether the car was armed with a bomb or not.
Most of the earlier attacks have been from either bombs only or active shooting but not attacks that deployed a combination of tactics like this one. So this in essence is a new trend in the region.
The heavy gunfire sent many people scampering for their lives. While this looked like a normal situation it could have also been a tactic to let people run around making it difficult for government forces to intervene quickly for fear of harming innocent civilians.
The Al Shabaab who claimed responsibility like many out there know what happened at the Westgate and are very sure the government would want no repeat of something like that. It’s difficult to know exactly what the terrorists wanted and what they actually did because certain information is privileged.
But the people scampering around actually gave the attackers more time to carry out their mission without being quickly contained by the security forces.
The bombs created fear not only in the public but also among security forces who may not have known how much more explosives these guys had. Consequently this gave the attackers more time to conduct their mission.
The terrorist parked the car bomb in the parking yard in between other cars. We need to always remember that our parking lot is a ‘mine field’ with massive litres of explosives in our tanks.
The impact of that bomb was much bigger because it was helped by the fuel in the tanks of the other cars.
The burning cars also distracted rescue efforts. The picture of cars burning emitting massive smoke in the sky is a good picture for publicity of a terror act.
The Dusit2D Hotel is located at Riverside, a complex that houses many international organizations and has restaurants frequented by foreigners especially from the Western World. The target thus was also chosen carefully. Truth is that Americans will always be prime terror targets and so is other Europeans especially from Western Europe. This does not mean they are the only ones that die in these incidents but the rest are usually just collateral damage.
This particular attack was no different and aimed at causing fear and destruction in one of Kenya’s’ most affluent areas targeting both whites and wealthy nationals.
Reports also indicate that the Terrorists breached the security barrier which was revered as one of the most efficient in Nairobi. “Most efficient” is the term security officers and practitioners should avoid.
Most efficient in what parameter? Tested by how many forms of attacks? How many scenarios were built to try and test its efficiency?. The message is very clear, there is no security measure that is most efficient in terms of providing security and if you start thinking with terms like ‘most efficient’ in mind then you may become complacent.
The terrorists carry out reconnaissance and plan according to what they see on the ground meaning they do not expect any surprises at their targets.
And finally, yesterday marked the third anniversary since Al shabaab attacked El – Adde military base killing about 140 Kenyan soldiers. Like we celebrate our anniversaries with parties, terrorist celebrate their anniversaries with other attacks and so it is always important to be alert on any such days. It may not happen in year 1, 2 or 3 but it will happen one day so such days for security officers should be like their wives birthdays that is ‘taboo’ to forget.
The author is a Senior Consultant with Bert Consults International Ltd.
By: Herbert Ogwal