The Kenya Air Force (KAF) has carried out a series of raids against suspected militant camps in the forests of Kilifi County, just north and north-east of Mombasa. Officials have linked the air raids to the Somali group rather than local separatists and the KAF also bombed an al-Shabab base in southern Somalia on 22 July. Meanwhile, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for several more fatal attacks in Lamu County, further north up the coast over the past two weeks.
Al-Shabab has previously demonstrated a capability in both Nairobi and Mombasa, but the Kilifi strikes suggest that it is moving increasing numbers of fighters into Kenya rather than merely transiting down the coast to carry out raids. This, in turn, suggests that a much more significant capability will develop along the entire coastal region, significantly raising the threat to Westerners there, as we warned was likely last time. There are already a growing number of retaliatory attacks by Christians against local Muslims, which carry a collateral threat. These developments were reflected in the UK Foreign Office’s 12 July decision to extend its existing travel advisory for the coastal region. On 24 July a German tourist was shot dead in the same part of Mombasa where a Russian was murdered on 6 July (see our 11 July Report), though both incidents seem to have been criminally motivated.
In the meantime, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) issued a warning of the “near-term” risk of attacks using Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) against Western interests in Kenya and Ethiopia. The FAA gave no specific details about particular airports or which group might attempt a MANPADS attack. In 2002 al-Qaeda carried out a failed MANPADS attack Israeli airliner and a suicide car bomb attack on an Israeli-owned tourist hotel, both in Mombasa. Dozens of MANPADS have fallen into jihadist hands in Libya, Syria and Yemen in recent years and, while there is no evidence that al-Shabab has acquired such weapons, the group may have the capability to carry out such an attack.