122 killed in terror attacks in 2020, group says

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Terror attacks claimed 122 lives in Kenya last year, a report by the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies shows.

It is an increase by 39 from the number of deaths reported in 2019, which was 83.

The majority of those who died last year were members of the al Shabaab insurgent group, with 58 militants reported dead.

According to the report, other casualties were 35 civilians, 28 security officials and one government official.

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The data, which is derived from the ‘CHRIPS Terror Attacks and Arrests Observatory’ further reveals a steady increase in attacks targeting security officials over the last three years especially in areas bordering Somalia.

CHRIPS research fellow Patrick Mutahi said, “the figures reveal a big increase in attacks from 34 reported in 2019 to 69 in 2020. The government and relevant stakeholders will need to relook at counter terror strategies in counties worst hit to overcome the insecurity”.

Police headquarters said they had no immediate comment on the report because it was yet to be shared with them.

Last year, the Teachers Service Commission withdrew teachers from Mandera county due to insecurity. Data from the observatory shows that Mandera recorded the largest number of attacks at 29. Others were 23 in Garissa, nine in Lamu and eight in Wajir.

Some 76 people were arrested in the period under review. The largest number of arrests took place in January when 43 people were arraigned on suspicion that they were linked to al Shabaab and were planning to conduct a terror attack in Nairobi. Among those arrested were 38 students.

Al Shabaab has carried out attacks in Kenya for a decade, ever since Kenya sent troops into Southern Somalia under Operation Linda Nchi to crush the militant group.

In 2020, 69 attacks were reported. This is a 49 per cent increase as compared to 34 attacks recorded in 2019. The attacks intensified at the beginning of the year, decreasing from April to August and later increasing in September and December.

February, January and December recorded the highest number of terror-related occurrences with 11, 10 and eight attacks. April and October had the least number of attacks and none recorded in August.

According to the report, a total of 25 security officials were killed across the four counties including 10 police officers, eight police reservists, three from the Kenya Defence Forces as well as six unspecified security officials.

This is a marked decrease from 2019, where Kenya lost 42 security personnel to terror-related attacks.

Civilians and government officials have been victims of kidnapping during the period under review. For instance, a chief and four civilians were abducted in Wajir in January by a group of jihadists who raided a village in Gurmey subcounty. They ordered residents to switch off their phones before proceeding to lecture them.

The chief’s decapitated body was found between Koton and Khorof Harar town a few days after.

In the report, Nairobi county recorded the highest number of arrests in 2020 totalling 51 while Lamu had the least number where one person was arrested during the period under review.

The year 2020 saw three counties with no previous cases of terror-related arrests in 2019. They are Laikipia, Tana River and Kilifi. Three people, all Kenyan, were arrested in Laikipia as they unsuccessfully attempted to force their way into a British army training camp in Nanyuki.

Two men were arrested in Tana River county in January on suspicion that they could be linked to terrorist groups.

A laptop with codes and locations of various foreign communication installations was recovered during the arrest.

Two people were arrested in Kilifi county in two separate incidents recorded in January and April.

In January, the man arrested was an al Shabaab returnee who confessed and surrendered himself in a Kilifi church.

The report says explosive devices and firearms were employed in 16 and 15 separate incidents. For instance, in a May attack targeting security officers in Wajir, al Shabaab militants raided Khrof Arar police camp using firearms and grenades. Kenyan police managed to kill three militants in the incident.

In September, KDF troops killed five attackers after they ambushed a military convoy in Lafey, Mandera county, near the Kenya- Somalia border.

During the year under review, firearms were used in attacks targeting civilians.

The report says some reports indicated that the rise in attacks in the region resulted from the sale of contraband goods.

“Smugglers use militants to fight security officials so that they allow passage of goods like cooking oil, sugar, milk and rice.”

According to local partners, this increase in activity could be attributed to the illegal trade of contraband goods along the Kenya-Somali border, especially in Wajir, where alleged al Shabaab militants reportedly collect taxes to allow passage of goods into Kenya.

CHRIPS is an African research centre based in Kenya that conducts relevant research on human rights, security, terrorism and counter-terrorism, violence, crime and policing.

HIGHLIGHTS

Attacks increased to 69 from 34 reported in 2019

  • Four counties affected: 29 attacks in Mandera; 23 in Garissa; nine in Lamu; and eight in Wajir
  • 122 people were killed in 2020 terror attacks compared to 83 in 2019
  • 42 people injured: 19 civilians; 18 security officials; and five al Shabaab militants
  • 25 people kidnapped: 24 civilians and one government official
  • 71 people arrested for terror-related offences
  • 56: the highest number of suspects arrested, which was recorded in Nairobi
  • Nationalities of those arrested: 45 Kenyans; six foreign nationals; and 20 undisclosed

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