Kenya blames US, Israeli intelligence for no heads-up on Nairobi attack
President Uhuru Kenyatta is quoted as blaming the United States and Israel, in conversation with his confidants, for the failure of their undercover agencies to prevent the large-scale terrorist attack launched on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi on Sept. 21, DEBKA file reports. He said he had counted on them for a heads-up to thwart an attack, instead of which both the Americans and Israelis were as much in the dark as his own security agencies.
After October 2011, when Kenyan forces entered Somalia to back the government’s war on the Al Shabaab insurgency, Israeli and American intelligence operatives were given broad license to operate in Kenya’s main cities and shield the country against Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda terrorist attacks.
Kenyatta was particularly bitter over the way US officials Wednesday, Sept. 25, poured public scorn on Kenyan police and military operations against the terrorists holding the mall. They said they were “mindful that Kenya… has become a precarious buffer zone between the US and Islamist militants.” The shopping mall siege was seen as “a direct threat” to America’s national security, said those US officials.
The Kenyan president takes the reverse view: He considers the US and Israel failed in their responsibility for setting up a buffer zone for protecting his own country’s national security.
In this regard, Al Shabaab Wednesday, Sept. 25, issued a “message to Westerners” to prepare for a “long war” unless foreign troops pulled out of Somalia.
US intelligence sources rebut Kenyatta’s charges. They say they undertook to train Kenyan forces up to a certain level, but then responsibility for warding off attacks devolved on the local authorities.
They had no answers for questions about another US intelligence failure to pick up word of yet another Al Qaeda attack on the way in Africa, just a year after US Ambassador Chris Stevens and four of his staff, all special US agents, were caught unready and murdered in the Libyan town of Benghazi.
After that disaster and, more recently, the Algerian gas field hostage siege targeting Western staff of Jan. 16, 2013, the US has beefed up its military and intelligence presence in Africa and overhauled the US Africa Command-AFRICOM.
Israeli security officials have refused to comment on their involvement in Kenya before, during or after the shopping mall attack, preferring to focus on rapidly rebuilding a strong security envelope in Nairobi.
In private conversation, Israeli police and intelligence sources admit they fell down badly in Kenya, their failure all the more galling in view of Al Qaeda having targeted a center which houses many Israel-owned and managed businesses.
Their most urgent task now is to find out how terrorist spies were able to conduct repeated surveillance excursions in the Westgate mall – and even smuggle in large stocks of ammunition for a long siege – undetected by Israeli security agents and without them sounding the alarm.