In Summary
  • Inquiries by the Nation indicate that a coordinated rescue mission was badly delayed because of disputes between the Kenya Police and KDF officers commanding their units on the ground.
  • It took prolonged consultations that also involved State House before President Kenyatta publicly announced that Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo was in charge.

Rivalry among security agencies and lack of clear command lines badly affected the response to the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall, the Nation has established.

Jurisdictional differences appear to have extended to blame games among security agencies, as Kenya recovers from its worst terror attack since the 1998 bombing of the Embassy of the United States of America in Nairobi.

Various units of the Kenya Police and the Kenya Defence Forces played key roles in the rescue operation after a band of terrorists linked to Somalia-based Al-Shabaab attacked the shopping mall on Saturday and killed dozens before holding an unknown number hostage inside the up-market complex.

Inquiries by the Nation indicate that a coordinated rescue mission was badly delayed because of disputes between the Kenya Police and KDF officers commanding their units on the ground.

A reconstruction of the rescue mission indicates that a team from the Recce General Service Unit of the Kenya Police early in the rescue operation made its way into the mall and secured most of it, pinning down the terrorists at one end around Nakumatt Supermarket and Barclays Bank.

Rooftop parking

However, the team pulled out after its commander was fatally shot in ‘friendly fire’ following the arrival of a KDF unit.

Also pulling out at the same time was a small group of policemen from various units and armed civilians, who were the first to enter the mall from the rooftop parking and the front entrance and led hundreds of shoppers to safety.

The pullout left a vacuum that apparently allowed the terrorists to regroup and move through the mall slaughtering many captives.

It also allowed the terrorists to deploy heavy-calibre machine guns that they had not used in the earlier shootout.

It took prolonged consultations that also involved State House before President Kenyatta publicly announced that Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo was in charge.

However, it was also decided that KDF Special Forces would be the ones to conduct the actual assault on the terrorists, while the GSU and other police units ringed the mall.

The soldiers and their commanders on the ground only answered to KDF chief General Julius Karangi rather than to the police boss, which also complicated the operation.
The teams also appeared to have had different aims. One officer involved said that some units had a priority to locate and rescue a specific group of VIPs.

Barely an hour after the attack, the GSU squad had taken control of almost 70 per cent of the building after moving in to reinforce the small group of policemen, who were the first to enter the building.

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