Kenya, UK and UN open anti-terror operations centre

New anti-terror operations centre in Mombasa

From left: Police IG Hillary Mutyambai, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, British High Commissioner Jane Marriott and Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations Hamisi Masa during the official opening of the anti-terror operations centre in Mombasa on July 20, 2022.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

The war on terror got a major boost Wednesday following the opening of an operations centre in Mombasa that was jointly put up by the Kenya and British governments with support from the United Nations.

The Sh81 million station has detention facilities and will provide dedicated space for the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) to work on terror cases and support effective ‘human-rights-compliant’ investigations.

It will also serve as the ATPU headquarters, given that the port city is a tourist hub that has suffered for many years from terrorist attacks.

Located at the Coast regional police command centre, it has a state-of-the-art service area, an armoury, conference and IT rooms and nine holding cells fitted with beds, modern toilets and adequate ventilation.

It was opened by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, British High Commissioner Jane Marriot, Inspector-General of Police Hilary Mutyambai and Masatomo Yamaguchi of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Modern counter-terrorism

Dr Matiang’i said it has become necessary for the country to invest heavily in modern anti-terrorist and counter-terrorism efforts through bilateral, multilateral and global cooperation and partnerships.

“The station will provide an internationally compliant facility, where most terrorist suspects can be held and relevant criminal justice agencies can work together on counter-terrorism cases, supporting more effective counter-terrorism investigations within the coastal region,” he said.

The CS said terrorism remains an evolving national and international security threat. According to the Statista Research Department February 2022 report, terrorist-related fatalities worldwide in 2020 were 29,389.

Dr Matiang’i said data shows documented terrorist attacks worldwide declined between 2006 and 2020, with 14,371 in 2006 and 10,172 in 2020. “The fear created by terrorism remains constant. Sadly, both the United Kingdom and Kenya have suffered terrorist attacks in the past and we cannot run away from this history,” he said.

Big threat

Ms Marriot said terrorism is one of the biggest threats facing the two countries.

She said recent attacks at the DusitD2 Complex at 14 Riverside Drive, the Westgate Mall and at Garissa University College resulted in the loss of numerous Kenyan and British lives. “The north-east of Kenya faces a constant threat daily, with a regular improvised explosive device and other attacks on civilians and security forces,” she observed.

Ms Marriot said the UK has committed to supporting Kenya with Sh1 billion annually to tackle terrorism because Nairobi is London’s premier security partner in East Africa.

Boost tourism

The envoy said the UK is committed to strengthening counter-terrorism operations in Coast, which will boost tourism.

“We are interested in this region because the UK is the second highest contributor of tourists to Kenya,” she said.

“In 2019, 181,000 British nationals visited Kenya to enjoy the coastline, safari and excitement of both Nairobi and Mombasa nightlife,” she said.