As the country commemorates the tenth anniversary of the Westgate Mall attack, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) says it has learned from the mistakes that led to the tragedy.
On September 21, 2013, members of the Somali-based Islamist group al-Shabaab attacked the Westlands Mall in Nairobi. The ordeal, which lasted at least two tense days, killed 67 people and injured many more.
According to the DCI, the militants stormed the high-end Westgate Mall around midday on the fateful day, throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately at shoppers in a coordinated slaughter that detectives later discovered had been planned for months.
According to investigations, Shabaab militants based in Somalia collaborated on the attack with contacts at the Kakuma refugee camp and in Nairobi. They were able to avoid detection by detectives due to the then-lax procedures for obtaining mobile phone SIM cards, which they used to communicate.
As investigators later discovered, eight mobile phone lines directly linked to the attack were registered in Nairobi and activated days before the attack.
“Based on our response following the attack, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations learnt from its mistakes and has since then put in place mitigating measures to ensure that such an attack does not occur,” posted the DCI on their X (formerly Twitter) page.
One of the strategies identified by the DCI was the development of its officers’ human resource capacity to respond to current security demands.
As a result, the DCI’s Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) was upgraded, and a highly specialised counterterrorism and hostage rescue tactical team – the Emergency Response Team (ERT) – was established. The highly trained and motivated team is ready to respond to any terror-related incident 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Additionally, an anonymous, toll-free call centre dubbed #FichuakwaDCI was established at DCI Headquarters to specifically handle calls related to serious crimes such as terrorism, human trafficking and armed robberies among others,” said the DCI
“The call centre which receives about 50 calls in a day, half of which are actionable, has revolutionized the manner in which we gather verifiable information and respond in time before criminal acts are committed. These among other measures including embracing the multi-agency approach in responding to security threats have ensured that the safety and security of every citizen has been assured.”