NAIROBI, Kenya, January 21, 2019/ — Specialist risk consultancy Control Risks is supporting its national and international clients with the response to the 15 January terrorist attack at the 14 Riverside Drive complex in the Westlands district of Nairobi. At around 15:00 (local time), armed gunmen attacked the complex, which houses the DusitD2 hotel and several office buildings, including that of Control Risks. The attack involved multiple explosions and gunfire, killing at least 21 people and injuring many others. Somali Islamist extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Control Risks monitors political, security and operational challenges in Kenya and worldwide for its clients. Kenya has been on heightened alert since its military intervention in Somalia in 2011, which raised the threat of reprisal attacks by Islamist extremists or sympathisers. On its risk-monitoring platform CORE, Control Risks has long asserted that “al-Shabab retains the intent and capability to carry out a one-off high-profile attack in Nairobi or Mombasa”.
Kenya’s security outlook
- Al-Shabab is unlikely to have the capability to carry out a similarly large-scale attack in Nairobi in the coming year. The attack was sophisticated and well coordinated, involving explosive devices, multiple gunmen and a high level of planning, including hostile reconnaissance of the complex. Although al-Shabab has grown in strength in Somalia over the past year, the group likely lacks the resources to conduct successive attacks of this nature, especially given that state security measures in Kenya are likely to be significantly increased.
- However, small-scale attacks and other al-Shabab activity in Kenya are likely to increase over the coming months. An uptick in attacks occurred following the September 2013 Westgate shopping centre (mall) attack, particularly in coastal regions and areas near the Somali border. A similar rise in activity is also likely following the 14 Riverside attack as the group attempts to exploit publicity to attract new recruits and funding, and increase pressure on the Kenyan government to withdraw its troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Terrorism trends in Kenya
- The attack follows a number of reported failed plots by al-Shabab to target Nairobi in recent years. Authorities have warned on several occasions since January 2017 of plans to attack the capital, as well as Mombasa (Mombasa county) and Malindi (Kilifi county), indicating that urban centres are becoming an increasing focus for the group in Kenya. Police in Isiolo county in February 2018 reportedly foiled a "major terrorist attack" targeting Nairobi after intercepting a car packed with explosives as it travelled to the capital from El Adde in south-western Somalia.
- Counterterrorism capabilities in Kenya, in particular intelligence sharing, have improved significantly since the Westgate attack. However, the effect of these improvements has been mitigated by a deteriorating political and security situation in Somalia. Severe tensions between the federal government and regional administrations in Somalia have hampered cooperation in tackling al-Shabab, and delayed implementation of security reforms agreed with international partners. Al-Shabab has been able to exploit this situation to launch increasingly frequent and sophisticated attacks in the Somali capital Mogadishu. If you wish to schedule an interview with one of our Nairobi-based experts