Kenyans enhance vigilance as threats of terror attack rise
NAIROBI — At any time of the day, the streets of Nairobi are always teeming with hundreds of people going about their businesses. The huge human traffic has in the past made it difficult for security agents to protect citizens and thus terrorists have more than once targeted people on the streets.
But with increased threats of terror attack hanging over Kenya, Nairobi residents have become vigilant. City residents are watchful of suspicious actions of anyone seemingly out to cause trouble as police and other security organs work round the clock to foil terror attacks.
Citizens have become aware of the fact that fighting terrorism is not only the work of the police but for everyone.
Kenya has been hit by terrorists several times, with a good number of the attacks resulting into deaths and injuries.
The latest incident happened last Sunday in Mombasa when terrorists stormed a church in Likoni and fired at worshippers. The terror attack resulted into the death of at least four people, with dozens others sustaining series injuries.
The attack was an indication that terrorists were changing tactics as they seek to maim and kill Kenyans.
Prior to the killing that targeted Christians, security agents had foiled a plan to bomb various establishments in the coastal town. The officers had recovered several pipe bombs that they said had the capacity to bring a skyscraper down.
These incidents follow others in Nairobi last year, including one at Westgate Mall and an attack at a shopping complex, where a terrorist left a package at a stall containing a bomb, which he later detonated.
The rising cases of terrorism have made Kenyans conscious of the threats of terror attack facing the East African nation.
“What are you carrying? Please open your bag we confirm that indeed it has your personal items,” a supermarket attendant informed two young men on Wednesday. The youths wanted to leave the bag with him before entering the facility.
The young men, however, were adamant and did not want to be frisked as they argued with the attendant. The defiance raised suspicion and attracted security guards and members of the public.
They were later forcefully made to open the bag so that it can be scrutinized.
“How do we know that they are not carrying a bomb? We cannot take chances,” a smartly dressed man, who was among those who pressurized the young men to open the bag, observed.
“You can only refuse to be frisked if you know that you have ill intentions,” the young men were later allowed to enter the facility after it was confirmed that they are university students and were carrying books and clothes.
“It would not have taken them even two minutes to open the bag and let it be checked. Such defiance cannot help us overcome terrorism,” added the man.
He later went ahead to talk about how fighting terrorism in Kenya is becoming complex as those attacking citizens are not people of Somali extraction but Kenyans, who have been radicalized.
Away from the incident, a young man refused to be frisked before he entered a building in Nairobi’s central business district. And when he was sent away, he started calling the security guards names.
The guards arrested and locked him up at a cubicle in the building and call the police, who later whisked him away to a police station.
The vigilance has also extended to public transport vehicles, which have been struck by terrorists several times in the past months.
Some bus companies have acquired metal detectors that they use to frisk passengers and luggage. No one can board the vehicles without being frisked.
Inside the public transport vehicles, a good number of passengers have become watchful of luggage. With the help of the conductor, they ensure that anyone boarding the vehicle with a luggage should alight with it.
Terrorists have in the past entered public transport vehicles with luggage that turn out to bombs. They then alight from a vehicle without the luggage and detonate the bomb soon after.
Terrorists turned Kenya into a battleground after the country’s defense forces went into Somalia in 2012 to fight Al-Shabaab militants, who had become a threat to its economy. The Kenyan government has taken decisive measures to fight and combat terrorism.
“Your days are numbered. We will not allow criminals to hide under the umbrella of religion to harm Kenyans. Those who think they can use religion to kill and cause divisions among us I tell them, not in Kenya,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday as he responded to the terror attack at a church in Mombasa.
Kenya is working with several countries, including the United States to fight terrorism.
“It is difficult to secure Kenya’s long border stretch. But we will help ensure this is done and work to eliminate terrorism perpetuated by the Al-Shabaab,” said U.S. ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec.