Kenya: Al-Shabaab used $50, 000 to launch Dusit D2 Hotel attack in Nairobi
NAIROBI, Kenya - Al-Qaida associates Al-Shabaab took several months plotting an assault at Dusit D2 Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, a report by UN Panel of Experts has revealed.
At least 26 people were killed in the deadly operation that literally took Kenyan security forces around six hours to restore normalcy in the hotel.
During the operation, elite Recce squad officers managed to kill four terrorists after fiery gunfight. The fifth militant had blown up himself before the attack.
The report, which was released on Monday, exposes Al-Shabaab's new strategy of using millions to finance recruitment of militants and subsequent launching of attacks.
In Dusit D2 attack, the report says, close to $50,000 was used to finance the entire operation. The money was channeled through their link in Mandera County.
“A conservative estimate of the total cost of the DusitD2 operation was between $45,000 and $50,000 (Sh4 million and Sh5 million),” the experts suggest.
Those considered for recruitment, the experts said, are renowned criminals who have mastered the Kenyan security network well, thus the choice of Salim Ali Gichunge, the commander of the deadly January attack.
“The possession of criminal skills, including knowledge of evading law enforcement, are privileged over ideology or affiliation with certain mosques or religious networks,” report says.
Gichunge, who died in the attack, was a son to a former KDF officer. The militants rented him a house at the outskirts of Nairobi where he spent days organising the attack.
According to the experts, Al-Shabaab militants chose him to lead the attack as a strategy to shift their operations from Somalia to Kenyan soil.
“Unusually for a Kenyan operative within al-Shabaab,” the report notes, “Gichunge was given wide discretion and autonomy over the particulars of the plot — including the selection of the target — rather than being directly overseen from within Somalia.”
Osman Ibrahim Gedi, who was also killed during the attack, was the key link to Mr Guchunge during the planning and execution of the attack.
The assault on the Dusit complex began at 3.28pm East African time on January 15 when a third Kenyan, Mombasa-born Mahir Khalid Riziki, detonated a suicide bomb, the report recounts.
Siyat Omar Abdi, a Somali born in the Dadaab refugee complex in 1992, was among the gunmen who stormed the hotel. Records by the experts indicate that Abdi had resided in the refugee camp for years.
Kenya has often expressed concerns over the Dadaab camp to UN, earmarking it as a terrorists breeding ground. United Nations has often refuted the reports.
Also implicated in the Dusit attack is Abdi Ali Mohamed, a Kenyan national based in Mandera. He used three phone numbers to transmit almost $700 to Shabaab cell leader Gichunge via M-Pesa, the report states.
Dusit D2 Hotel attack was the first in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi in as many years. Al-Shabaab attacked the city last in September 2014 at Westgate mall, few meters from Dusit D2.
The attack exposed major security lapses along Kenya-Somalia border, which terrorists have often used when waging attacks in the country.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has since launched anti-extreamism campaigns at the Kenyan coast and North Eastern region, a move aimed at thwarting Al-Shabaab recruitment mission.
There have been calls by sections of Kenyan politicians to withdraw KDF troops from Somalia and position them along the porous border.
Experts also said the Al-Shabaab militants have abandoned illegal charcoal trade as income generating activity, resorting to mafia-style taxation targeting various businesses in Somalia.