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Former TFG fighters behind fresh wave of attacks, says official

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

BILLY MUTAI | NATION The Suq-Mugdi Market in Garissa town was re-built last month following an arson attack by unknown people. Three KDF soldiers were also killed in the area a few weeks ago in a surge of violence.

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The Garissa County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim has attributed the series of terror attacks in the northeastern town to Kenyan- Somalis who deserted the Somali Transitional Federal Government forces in Somalia.

Mr Maalim told the Nation in Garissa a fortnight ago that terrorism in the town was a build-up of activities that started long before the Kenya Defence Forces crossed the porous border with Somalia on Operation Linda Nchi.

Kenya led regional efforts to bolster TFG’s and helped recruit the young men who would go into its armed forces.

They also ended up fighting alongside the Kenya Defence Forces but when they couldn’t bear the heat anymore, they fled back home with their weapons.

“Maybe their expectations in Somalia were contrary to what they had been told,” says Mr Maalim, adding that these deserters, armed and with military training, have been the main source of trouble in Garissa.

He notes that the defence forces and internal security agencies had established that Al-Shabaab militants offer a bounty of $8,000 (Sh696,000) for every security agent killed.

Eight police officers and three members of the KDF were killed in Garissa last year.

TFG deserters have been offered amnesty, but Mr Maalim says this will soon be dropped.

The Internal Security ministry is also of the view that the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Somalia are responsible for the terror attacks in Garissa and Eastleigh in Nairobi.

Kenya’s suggestion that the refugee camp at Daadab ought to be relocated to the peaceful parts of Southern Somalia has been met with resistance from the international community and the United Nations.

All refugees have now been ordered to go back to the camps and their registration in urban centres stopped.

Mr Maalim says authorities have established that Garissa is one of several terrorist cells in Kenya and there are more in the refugee camps.

Intelligence information

The killing of civilians has sparked fear and cut off intelligence information from the community.

Like many other police stations throughout Kenya, the police in Garissa are also short of vehicles and other crucial equipment needed for surveillance.

But when we asked Garissa OCPD George Ali what his biggest challenge was, his answer was one word; information.

“Civilians don’t trust the police and the police are wary of the civilians,” he said.

There were also suggestions that the involvement of the police in smuggling means they could be behind the terror cells given that illegal arms and explosive material finds their way into the country.

With the officers now as targets, the police have become vigilant.

Garissa is one of few places in Kenya where you’ll find the Administration Policemen who guard government buildings pacing around with their fingers on the trigger and in helmets and bullet proof vests.

The officers no longer patrol in pairs and tasks are carried out in contingents.

When soldiers from an army camp nearby needed to change a flat tyre, a second vehicle was dispatched, with the soldiers taking positions in the surrounding to handle any eventualities.

“We’re not taking any chances,” says the County Commissioner.

Yield results

Mr Maalim and Mr Ali said increased cooperation with the community should yield results.

They credit the arrest of a former prison warder suspected of orchestrating the killing of a resident and a soldier to this approach.

Police have arrested and charged seven suspects in connection with the killings.

“I’ve done a baraza in every corner of this town,” says Mr Maalim. Land has been set aside for the construction of three police stations — at Iftina, Waberi and Medina — to cater for the town’s increasing population.

Landlords have been asked to have all their tenants properly identified in order to create a citizens’ register.

When the authorities made this announcement, the registration bureau there and the police station were flooded with civilians seeking registration.

Mr Maalim based his Masters degree thesis on the Somalia conflict. He is confident the terror is a passing cloud.

“For us to stabilise Somalia, we expected this kind of thing.”

That kind of thing has terrified some, and non-Somalis are advised to be careful as the terrorists appear to have turned to killing them.

The latest attacks were at about 7.15pm on December 19 when three civilians were killed

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