Kenyan security agencies ignored warnings before Westgate attack


Kenyan security agencies did not heed information about an impending attack before an assault on the Westgate shopping mall in the capital last September that killed 67 people, the head of a parliamentary committee said on Sunday.

Gunmen from Somalia’s al Shabaab militant group stormed the upmarket mall as shoppers flocked there on a Saturday.

Police and the intelligence services received information of impending attacks on at least three occasions in the year leading up to the assault, said Ndung’u Gethenji, chairman of the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, investigating the assault.
“What we discovered is there was general information, not specific to Westgate, which was given, and that information appears either not to have been heeded or minimal effort was made to react to the information,” Gethenji said.

The findings are contained in a joint report by Gethenji’s committee and the Committee on National Security, which will be debated when parliament resumes on February 11.
“There needs to be a general improvement in the way the forces co-ordinate and we recommended the creation of a new inter-agency body, it is like a national security agency, which will be reporting directly to the president,” Gethenji said.

The agency would be staffed from across the spectrum of the security services, from the military to the police, and would deal with threats of attacks by militants and associated crimes such as money-laundering and wildlife poaching to raise funds, he said.

Gethenji said the report and its recommendations was likely to be adopted by parliament after debate, before being forwarded to the president for implementation.
“We don’t anticipate any issues but because it is an emotive issue and it is a national security issue you can expect it to be a robust debate,” he said.