October 6, 2014 / 5:44 PM / 4 years ago

Kenya body blames poor coordination for slow response to coast attacks

MOMBASA Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya’s intelligence and security agencies need to improve their coordination and command structures to avoid a repeat of the slow response to attacks in June that killed about 65 people, a police oversight body said.

The report released by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority on Monday echoes complaints heard last year when Islamist militants attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall. It also suggests the shortcomings are still not being addressed.

Gunmen killed dozens of people in the coastal town of Mpeketoni on the north coast during a nighttime raid in June and raided a nearby village the next night. More attacks were launched elsewhere in July.

Residents along the coast complained that security forces failed to respond swiftly to the raids and did not offer adequate protection afterwards. Thousands fled the region.

“(A) prompt response failed because of conflicting orders and lack of a centralized command structure at the County level, which could coordinate all the national police service resources in the region,” according to a report written by the police’s civilian oversight body.

“Further enquiries also ought to be conducted into why the Mpeketoni Police and Administration Police officers who were expected to be on night patrol shift had not reported for these duties by the time of the attacks,” it added.

Former security officers and diplomats say Kenya’s security forces and intelligence agencies are plagued by rivalries that undermine training by experts from the United States, Britain, Israel and other nations.

Lack of coordination between the army and police was also blamed when the attack on the Westgate shopping mall turned into a four-day siege in September of last year. At least 67 people were killed in that assault.

The report on Mpeketoni said ethnic, land and religious tensions among communities in the area might have been used to draw in locals to help carry out the attack.

The report said 37 of those killed in the Mpeketoni attacks were Kikuyus, the ethnic group of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who come from upland areas. Analysts have said the raids may have been aimed at stoking tension between newcomers and those who consider themselves indigenous coastal people.

The Somali Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the Mpeketoni attacks. It has said it has launched attacks on Kenya to push the government to withdraw its troops from Somalia, which Nairobi has said it would not do.

The report also cited poor police weaponry and lack of accurate intelligence as hampering the police response to the attacks, saying some gunmen were better armed.

As well as scaring residents, the attacks have frightened tourists away from the coast, hurting an industry that is a major source of hard currency to Kenya.

Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Writing by Edmund Blair; Edting by Larry King

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