Terror cells in Northern Kenya now headed by locals, authorities say

Suspected Shabaab terrorists damage Safaricom mast in Mandera

A communication mast that was destroyed by terrorists in 2023.

Photo credit: Manase Otsialo

A spate of recent terrorist attacks in Mandera County were planned and coordinated by locals, security authorities in the devolved unit have said.

Mr Amos Mariba, the Mandera County Commissioner has revealed that terror group al-Shabaab is operating in terror cells spread across Mandera.

“We are having increased sightings and incident reporting in Mandera. We have the al-Shabaab operating in groups led by locals, we are trailing them,” Mr Mariba said.

According to the Mandera County Security Committee chairman, locals involved in al-Shabaab operations understand the area well and are helping execute attacks deep inside the vast county.

“We have so far identified two locals involved in the terror activities but one of them has since crossed back into Somalia. We are on high alert as we hunt for others,” he said.

On Sunday, a convoy of police officers travelling from Elwak to Mandera was hit by an explosive. The lorry belonging to the General Service Unit (GSU) was hit leaving at least five police officers injured.

A total of 70 police officers were travelling in three lorries when the incident happened at about 1.30pm.

On the same day, an intelligence report shared locally indicated the presence of a high number of al-Shabaab militants in the Mandera South area.

Targeting communication masts

The group- sighted at Warido area in Shimbir Fatuma ward - was joined by another group from Somalia the same day, according to intelligence reports. Residents of Burmayo also reported sighting another group of militants on the same day.

On Thursday last week, the militants carried out simultaneous attacks targeting communication masts in Mandera South.

A group struck and damaged a communication mast in the Fincharo area while another hit another mast in Elwak town.

An increase in vegetation cover and water availability in Mandera are cited as catalysts for terror activities.

“Current thick vegetation cover and available water across the county are aiding the al-Shabaab movement in Mandera,” Mr Mariba said.

The al-Shabaab militants continue to carry out attacks using explosives in the North Eastern region.

“The militants, now in groups are targeting vehicles using remote-controlled explosives but as a security team we have a plan to deal with the same,” he said.

A security report shared on Monday warned of planned terror attacks in the counties of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu.

In Mandera, the report said the militants plan to carry out attacks along the Mandera-Rhamu-Elwak-Kotulo road.

In Wajir, the militants plan to carry out attacks between Wajir and Habaswein targeting buses.

In Garissa, the report identified areas of Serotho, Ege Dam, Amuma and Hagardera. The report advised all security officers to be on high alert.