The growing threat of IED attacks

Written By: Margaret Kalekye

The officers from Harehare GSU camp were on patrol when their vehicle hit the IED

Kenyan soldiers continue to suffer the brunt of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) attacks putting the rising use of the IEDs by Al-Shabaab in the spotlight.  

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There is no doubt that IEDs are increasingly the weapons of choice for the terror group.

The group frequently targets Somali and AMISOM military convoys with IEDs as part of their deadly ambushes on supply routes in south-central Somalia.

A year barely passes without IED attacks being reported in North-Eastern where Kenya shares its border with Somalia.

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Only last week October 12th, 11 General Service Unit (GSU) officers 11 police officers patrolling the Kenyan border with Somalia have this evening died after their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED).

The Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai said the troop was on patrol along Damajale Harehare road at about 1730hrs when the accident happened.

What is an IED

An improvised explosive device (IED) attack is the use of a “homemade” bomb and/or destructive device to destroy, incapacitate, harass, or distract. IEDs are used by criminals, vandals, terrorists, suicide bombers, and insurgents.

Because they are improvised, IEDs can come in many forms, ranging from a small pipe bomb to a sophisticated device capable of causing massive damage and loss of life.

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IEDs can be carried or delivered in a vehicle; carried, placed, or thrown by a person; delivered in a package; or concealed on the roadside. The term IED came into common usage during the Iraq War that began in 2003

Unmistakable trend

According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the growing use of IEDs is now a global problem.

Annually, IED attacks kill and injure more people than do attacks with any other type of weapon except firearms.

UNODA says about half of the world’s countries have currently been impacted by IEDs. In 2015 alone, suicide attacks involving IEDs occurred in over 10 per cent of Member States, a greater proportion than any recorded ever before.

Government spokesman Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna in an interview with a local radio station Tuesday admitted to the IED challenge.

He says the Al Shabaab terrorists pose on treetops where they are camouflage and wait for a vehicle to approach then they throw the IEDs down towards the vehicle.

“Some of the IEDs Al Shabaab use are made from some back yards making them strong. This meaning that this are not signal based IEDs making it hard to detect them before detonation” he said.

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He, however, assures all is not lost noting that the government is in the process of setting up systems where they can monitor movement by terrorists across the borders.

On whether Kenya will withdraw its troops from Somalia, Oguna says only time will tell.

“The idea is to protect both our county and get Somalia stable. KDF is still in Somalia as we share a common border meaning what they do directly affects us. We cannot fully defend our borders from within, as that would be a poor security strategy” said the spokesperson.

Why is IED use spreading?

In countries where strict weapons controls are in place, IEDs seem to form an increasingly attractive alternative or addition to illicit small arms.

UN observes that terrorist groups have sometimes made enduring gains in territorial control, creating areas where sophisticated IED production facilities can go undetected for long periods of time.

IEDs can be simple to design, and components remain cheap and easily accessible, including through criminal networks and porous borders, and as a result of corruption and poor ammunition stockpile management.

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UN further observes that armed groups have recruited extensive cadres which can be trained to manufacture and use IEDs.

Precisely because these groups often aim at any gatherings of civilians, the locations of their victims are widespread and it is almost impossible to predict whom they will be.

The financial and organizational prowess of several of these groups allows their IED manufacturers to continually adapt to counter-IED (C-IED) measures, explains UNODA.

The spread of communications technology has also greatly abetted IED knowledge-sharing. Online, groups share instructional videos or materials, both on IED construction and on the execution of attacks.

Early this year, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi faulted the United States government over its alleged failure to control humanitarian aid to Somalia saying some of the relief assistance ended up in the hands of militants.

Speaker Muturi also faulted the United Nations Security Council for failing to list Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization under Security Council Resolution 1267 which compromised the ongoing fight against terrorism.

However, the US government maintains it has classified Al-Shabaab as a terror group under UN security council resolution 751 and it is committed to fighting the vice.



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