Video:Soldiers kill seven in raid on barracks
It comes at a time when the government, egged on by the tourism establishment, which has suffered terrible losses due to the skirmishes, has been trying to convince the public that concerted action against militants is bearing fruit.
The fact that large groups of uniformed youths could plan, possibly train, assemble and try to attack highly sensitive installations will deal a big blow to the police and other security services.
The youths had also attempted to overrun an Administration Police camp in Malindi but were overpowered.
The two raids took place at about 5.30am, when soldiers are just about to change guard and are at their most vulnerable because of fatigue.
About 20 youths, dressed in black trousers resembling track-suit bottoms, black T-shirts and sky blue ribbons around their heads, attempted to gain entry into the barracks, housing the 17 Kenya Rifles, an infantry battalion.
One of the raiders confronted the sentries while the others tried to clamber over the barracks’ wall.
Attackers in the past have succeeded in raiding police stations, notably the one in Likoni where they killed officers in 1997, but military barracks have never been breached.
POOR GRASP OF WAR
The attackers chose their timing well, but their decision to face a modern army armed with knives shows a poor grasp of war.
Gates at Kenya Defence Forces installations are usually manned by armed sentries, with machine guns or some other heavy calibre weapons, covering the entrance from an elevated sentry box. It is highly likely that there are other rings of security as one moves into the installation. The system is intended to stop an army from shooting its way in.
The youths had either clean-shaven heads or short hair, with distinctly bushy goatees.
Six of the raiders were shot dead on the spot and a seventh body was found in a thicket inside the barracks at about 2pm.
In response, soldiers closed off parts of Nyali, an affluent suburb, in their search for the attackers. Sources said the soldiers were looking for raiders who may have escaped with gunshot wounds. By last evening, soldiers were interrogating one raider who was arrested.
At the Coast General Provincial Hospital mortuary, the Daily Nation noted that the six raiders, other than the similar hairstyles and identical clothes, were also all in their 20s and 30s.
Some had their heads shot off and were, in likelihood, picked out by sentries as they clambered over the walls. The bodies had no identification and were labelled “unknown”. The attack at the 17 Kenya Rifles base was the first confirmed assault on a military base. Military headquarters in Nairobi said the attackers hacked a soldier as they “tried to forcibly gain access”.
As one of the attackers confronted the sentry, others attempted to climb over the fence. Other sentries shot the five dead.
“The rest, however, escaped, some with gunshot injuries. Our soldiers pursued those who had escaped in the nearby forest, where they killed one more and arrested another,” said a statement sent to newsrooms by the military spokesman, Colonel David Obonyo. “Regrettably during the attack, one KDF soldier was hacked by the attackers and is receiving treatment at the camp.”
That the two attacks were carried out at the same time showed the assailants aimed at achieving maximum impact and portray security agents as weak, according to a security official who requested not to be named.
He said the assailants perceived that guards would be least prepared to respond at that hour.
Though the motive of the attacks was not clear, the official said the attackers probably wanted to snatch arms, besides causing deaths.
Following the attacks, soldiers were placed on alert in other military installations in Nairobi.
Briefing the press at Uhuru na Kazi Building, Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa said the youths took advantage of a heavy downpour at the Coast to attack.
Flanked by Mombasa County Police Commander Robert Kitur and County Criminal Investigation officer Henry Ondiek, Mr Marwa warned that the government would not hesitate to take decisive action against anybody planning to cause mayhem.
“We are alert 24/7. They imagined because of the rains, the soldiers were sleeping but they met fierce fire,” he said.
He asked youths to desist from being used for criminal activities.
“How on earth can a gang of criminals, in their normal minds, raid an army barracks?” he asked and alerted medical institutions and residents to report any wounded youth to security agents.
“We have a suspect in our custody and he is helping us with investigations,” he said.
The commissioner also warned parents of radicalised youths who were forcibly taking over mosques that their sons’ days were numbered and that they would soon face the full force of the law.
“Waambieni hao vijana (tell those youths), if they have parents, they should advise them to stop whatever they were doing or else they will have themselves to blame,” he said.
Reported by Fred Mukinda, Mwakera Mwajefa, Bozo Jenje and Galgalo Bocha