Al-Shabaab fighters outgunned Kenya army in Garissa attack
A special unit of the Kenya Defence Forces was overpowered by two machine gun-wielding Al-Shabaab terrorists during the attack on Garissa University College.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery told National Assembly’s Committee on Administration and National Security how helpless the specially-trained forces were and how they eventually had to use a military tanker to provide cover for the Recce squad, which completed the job, more than 12 hours later.
“Two Al-Shabaab gunmen stood at either side of the entrance to the hostel with machine gun fire, and they were able to repel the KDF officers who wanted to storm in. No one could go near there,” he said.
Mr Nkaissery was explaining for the first time, how one of the worst terror attacks in the country that led to the death of 147 people unfolded, and the lapses that helped increase drastically the casualties.
He told the committee that the regional security committee, led by the county commissioner, had actionable intelligence of an imminent terrorist attack at the university but did not act on it.
He said six officers have been interdicted due to “acts of commission or omission”.
At the centre of the lapse between intelligence gathered and action taken to thwart the threat is Garissa County Commissioner Njenga Miiri, who was also in charge in Lamu when Al-Shabaab struck in Mpeketoni, leading to the death of 60 Kenyans.
Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi asked the CS to confirm whether the government had transferred a problem to another area.
“This county commissioner was in charge of Lamu when the Mpeketoni attack took place before he was transferred to Garissa where another attack occurred. In both cases, actionable intelligence was not acted upon,” he said.
Mr Nkaissery said a team was working on security proposals that would put regional commissioners in charge of all government assets in their areas, including helicopters, for faster response to emergencies.
Meanwhile, drama unfolded during the meeting as MPs clashed over a claim by Mr Mwangangi that there were terrorism sympathisers in the committee.
Wajir West MP Mohammed Ore asked him to substantiate.
Mr Mwangangi was also on the spot after he claimed only Christians are usually killed during terror attacks.
Committee chairman Asman Kamama found himself in trouble when he said Muslims are also killed, with Embakasi West MP George Theuri refuting the claim.
At one point, Mr Kamama threatened to throw out some of the MPs as he tried to bring the meeting to order.
Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba challenged Mr Nkaissery to state what the government was doing to ensure terrorist attacks do not lead to a religious conflict, given that the terrorists were only targeting non-Muslims.
The minister said he had formed a team to compile a report on the matter.
“I do not understand the mentality of the terrorists. We have formed a team that will look into the issue, and give a report which will inform our next course of action,” he said.
He said he was working to bring the Police Airwing under one command, which would enable faster response and transportation of elite officers following the delayed response to the Garissa attack.