Director General of NIS Major General Michael Gichangi in deep thought during a past national ceremony. He is due to appear before a House committee on Monday [PHOTO:COLLINS KWEYU/STANDARD]
By MARTIN MUTUA AND MWANIKI MUNUHE
An unprecedented leak of Intelligence briefings covering the past year paint the picture of a government fully informed of an impending Al Shabaab attack ahead of the Westgate massacre.
The leak, coming days before the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director General Michael Gichangi is grilled by MPs on Monday, appears to draw a line in the sand as accusations are traded over the responsibility for the attack in which at least 67 were killed.
The 8,800-word dossier details terrorist plots and other activities by the militant group, including a direct warning of a terror plot in Nairobi between September 13 and 21.
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This is likely to be Gichangi’s line of defence when he appears before the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee. If Gichangi’s assertions cut ice, the tide could turn against other security organs and senior officials who must answer question as to what they did or did not with the Intelligence provided.
At a closed-door meeting of a joint committee of the House that is investigating the matter, the MPs admonished Gichangi for Intelligence gaps and security lapses that allowed terrorists to plan and execute the bloody attack.
Defence and Foreign Relations Committee chairman Ndung’u Gethenji said “it is now time for people to take responsibility and to audit our security system.”
The Intelligence leak claims that a security survey on key installations and shopping malls, including Westgate, essentially assessed their vulnerability to terrorist attacks and the requisite recommendations made.
Reports by NIS are normally shared with Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku and his PS Mutea Iringo, Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia (meaning President Uhuru Kenyatta must have been briefed), Inspector General David Kimaiyo and his two deputies and CID boss Ndegwa Muhoro.
NIS submitted a Situation Report dated September 21, 2002 — Serial No.184/2012 — which indicated that at least three suspected terrorists were in Nairobi planning suicide attacks on undisclosed dates.
“The following suspected Al Shabaab operatives are in Nairobi and are planning to mount suicide attacks on undisclosed date, targeting Westgate Mall and Holy Family Basilica; Sheikh Abdiwelli Mohamed, Sheikh Hussein and Sheikh Hassan. They are believed to be in possession of two suicide vests, twelve (12) hand grenades and two (2) AK47 rifles, and have already surveyed the two targets.”
“They are being assisted by Sheikh Hassan alias Blackie of Majengo and Omar Ahmed Ali alias Jerry who are currently staying near Mamba Petrol Station and Huruma Mosque along Juja Road,” the report said.
The same report indicated that two suspected Al Shabaab terrorists of Somali origin had entered South Sudan through Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan and were suspected to be in Uganda on transit to Kenya through either Busia or Malaba border points. The two were allegedly being assisted by Teskalem Teklemaryan, an Eritrean engineer who lives in Uganda and South Sudan.
The Intelligence report further advised that the duo had purchased one GPMG, four hand-grenades, one bullet belt, five AK 47 guns and unknown number of bulletproof jackets from Joseph Lomoro, an SPLA officer, and some maps of Nairobi.
The report further disclosed that one Maalim Khalid (also known as Maalim Kenya), a Kenyan explosives and martial arts expert, had been identified as the architect of current terrorist attacks in the country. Khalid, the report indicated, is associated with attacks at Machakos Country Bus, Assanands House in Nairobi and Bellavista Club in Mombasa.
He was reported to have selected 20 Kenyans in groups of 10, whom he trained at Marka and Barawe to drive, use of pistols and grenades, establish and utilise safe houses, escape and evasion tactics and effective and secure communication.
NIS’s advice to the government then was that Khalid was planning terrorist attacks in Kenya, aimed at damaging the economy, assassination of political and security leaders, and attacking Western interests and tourists.
“Elsewhere, the Al Shabaab is contemplating attacking Kenyan interests in other countries, starting with Zambia, but the timing, target and methods are still unclear. Kenyan interests anywhere in the world, therefore, remain the militant’s potential targets of attack as the Kenya Defence Forces and AMISOM exert pressure on them, and the imminent capture of Kismayu,” reads the report.
The report further established that an Al Shabaab operative, Musharaf Abdalla (also known as Zarkawi, Ali Abdalla, Musab, Shukri Abdirahman, Rashid, Noor Abdi Ismail, Alex Shikanda), who had been arrested on September 29, 2012 in Malindi, had disclosed that his associates were targeting Florida 2000, a club opposite Hilton Hotel (assessed to be Bettyz) and unidentified strip club near Nation Centre.
Another NIS situation report dated November 9, 2012 —serial No 219/2012 — indicated that one Titus Amusibwa alias Maalim Khalid, a terrorist suspect linked to the Al Shabaab and who was arrested with arms at Mariakani on October 27, 2012, had been found with information indicating that the terror group intended to attack the Kenya Pipeline network. The planned attacks were meant to reinforce the one against Changamwe Oil Refinery for maximum damage.
Another Intelligence brief titled “Situation Report for 13.09.13 - Serial no. 178/2013” indicated that one Mohamed Ade, who is based in Kenya, sent fraudulent refugee documents to 15 Al Shabaab Amniyat operatives in Somalia in early September 2013 to enable them access refugee camps in Kenya and thereafter move to other parts of the country.
The cards, according to the reports, were handed to Abdullahi Dheere who would then pass them over to Aynanshe, the Al Shabaab Governor in Middle Juba.
The operatives, said the brief, had undergone a Swahili language course and were under the command of Moalin Ali and were to enter Kenya by mid-September this year.