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Planners of Nairobi terrorist attacks must face prosecution
23 September 2013

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) expresses solidarity with its Kenyan colleagues and the victims of the attack and ongoing siege of a Nairobi shopping mall. The assault on civilians, allegedly by terrorists linked to Al-Shabaab, started on 21 September and has to date left 69 people dead and over a 175 injured.

ISS counter-terrorism experts are tracking events in Nairobi closely. The attack follows a number of threats against Kenya after its intervention in Somalia in October 2011, as well as the successful uncovering of plots by Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU).

Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia was prompted by the taking of hostages from Kenya and a number of smaller attacks on Kenyan targets. These attacks targeted churches and restaurants in an attempt to provoke retaliation from the Kenyan public, in particular the Christian community. This strategy was also followed in Saturday’s attack in Nairobi, with attackers making a distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims.

‘It is essential to guard against an emotional retaliation, as that would play directly into the hands of Al-Shabaab’ cautions Anneli Botha, senior researcher with the Transnational Threats and International Crime Division at ISS Pretoria.

The ongoing hostage situation in Nairobi makes the job of Kenya’s security forces very complex. The immediate priority is resolving the standoff with the gunmen inside the shopping mall without inflicting further casualties.

It is equally important that those who planned the attack are pursued with the aim of ensuring they stand trial in Kenya. Dealing effectively with terrorism in the long term requires evidence and intelligence-based criminal justice responses aimed at arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators. Experience demonstrates that a purely military response can have unintended consequences, including the risk of fuelling extremism and further acts of terrorism.

Due to the transnational nature of modern terrorist operations, it will be essential for Kenyan investigators to work closely with other African and international governments, not least because foreign nationals are both victims and alleged perpetrators of the attack.

‘Kenyan authorities do however have primary jurisdiction and should lead the investigation with help from international partners’, notes Botha.

ISS runs a programme of specialised counter-terrorism training in Kenya and East Africa that provides practical skills to police officers and prosecutors. As a partner in the fight against terrorism in Africa, ISS remains committed to providing continued support to Kenya and the region.


For media interviews and further information please contact:
Anneli Botha, senior researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria: + 27 82 822 6412.


About the Institute for Security Studies

The ISS is an African organisation which aims to enhance human security on the continent. It does independent and authoritative research, provides expert policy analysis and advice, and delivers practical training and technical assistance. 

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