Kenya is on high alert once more: here’s all you need to know about terror warnings.
Kenya is on high alert as a result of travel warnings issued by French, US, and European Union authorities about impending terrorist threats.
The Somali Islamist organization Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for several fatal terror assaults in Kenya. As a consequence, security has been strengthened. Oscar Gakuo Mwangi has conducted research on Kenya’s counter-terrorism policies and initiatives.
We asked him to deconstruct the intelligence behind terror warnings. How is information about potential terrorist strikes gathered? Cooperation between governments and security services is critical in the fight against terrorism. This is especially true with international terrorism. The timely and correct exchange of information via established channels is essential for effective inter-agency collaboration.
Kenya collaborates with a number of Western nations to reach the judgment that a terrorist strike is imminent. Kenya and the United Kingdom, for example, have reached an agreement to fight the danger posed by Al-Shabaab. The two nations exchange intelligence and look for new methods to hinder the group’s activities in East Africa and beyond.
The United Kingdom and Kenya collect information in a variety of methods. Covert human intelligence sources, directed surveillance, intercepting communications, data gathered from communications service providers, bulk personal data, invasive surveillance, and equipment interference are examples of these.
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The National Counter Terrorism Centre also has internet reporting channels where the public may report terrorism-related activity anonymously.
Kenya’s government also works with the United States. The United States, for example, funds the General Service Unit counterterrorism response squad.
Terrorist organizations themselves often offer information about impending assaults. Al-Shabaab uses its media arm, Al-Kaitab Media Foundation, to spread information about upcoming assaults as part of its public relations strategy.
Based on the information supplied, each governments are responsible for issuing travel advice to their residents.
How trustworthy is the intelligence that prompts alerts?
Sound intelligence research and analysis reveals patterns as well as the strategy and tactics of individual terrorist organizations.
In most cases, this implies that enough trustworthy data about impending assaults is generated.
It is, however, not a flawless science. Intelligence sources can provide views rather than real facts. As a result, the analysis might be subjective rather than objective at times.
The intelligence’s dependability is measured by how accurate or reliable the information is. The UK’s MI5, for example, appropriately archives credible information by noting its origin and veracity. Valid threat assessments are updated on a frequent basis in light of fresh information.
Terrorist organizations, on the other hand, act in unanticipated ways. Some terrorist acts are commemorative, that is, they are meant to honor previous successful assaults. Attacks may be symbolic, with the goal of furthering ideological goals and objectives. They may also be conducted out in reaction to counter-terrorism actions by the target state.
Diplomatic advisories or warnings are often updated since they are based on continuously changing security information.
Terror threat predictions in Kenya have often been proven correct. Between January 2019 and December 2021, the US government issued nine travel warnings and alerts warning of terrorist threats along Kenya’s border with Somalia and along the country’s coast. Five attacks and two thwarted attempts were recorded in these places during this time period.
The US embassy in Nairobi issued a travel alert to US citizens on January 5, 2022, telling them not to go to certain coastal regions due to terrorism. Al-Shabaab has since carried out assaults in Kenya’s coastal region of Lamu.
Why are most notifications generic rather than specific?
It is often impossible to forecast an impending terrorist assault in a specific location or at a certain time. Terrorism, as a subset of political violence, is a complicated and ever-changing phenomena. Its techniques and tactics are always evolving in order to respond to changing local, national, regional, and worldwide situations.
The methods have been labeled as asymmetric warfare since they are both ideological and military in nature. The unusual strategies are intended to win over marginalized local-level populations. As a result, asymmetric warfare is more long-term and durable than conventional combat.
The unpredictability of this sort of ideologically motivated warfare is a crucial distinguishing element of terrorism as a distinct form of political violence. As a result, anticipating terrorism is difficult.
The more complicated a terrorist group’s organizational and ideological structure, the more difficult it is to forecast its plans and methods.
What actions should the general population and security forces take?
Once the public is aware of the hazards, it is expected to take safeguards. Avoiding crowded public places and avoiding particular regions where previous assaults have happened are examples of these precautions.
The public should view and respond to these signals positively rather than negatively. Individuals have the main responsibility for their own security.
It is also the state’s obligation to ensure basic security. Additional security measures should be implemented by the government. Additional surveillance cameras, scanners, security obstacles, and increased visible police are among the measures being implemented.
However, a strong security reaction may have unexpected repercussions. Certain places, for example, may grow to be regarded as terrorist hotspots. Communities in these places may be wrongly labeled as “suspects.” This has the potential to increase mistrust and distrust, as well as intolerance between populations.
Repressive counter-terrorism operations that target particular persons and communities living in vulnerable regions should also be avoided by security forces. Such activities merely help to solidify public impressions of the state’s human rights breaches.
Alternative ways should be used by the state and its security services to respond to alarms. Preventing and combating violent extremism, as well as using soft measures, are examples of this. These are often ideological, linguistic, and social in nature. They are founded on trust rather than fear.