Kenya appoints new intelligence chief amid rising Shabaab threat

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 11, 2014 11:33 AM

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya on Thursday swore in a new intelligence chief who it hopes will tackle the rising threat from al Shabaab militants in neighboring Somalia bent on retaliation after U.S. missiles last week killed their leader and co-founder Ahmed Godane.

Major-General Philip Kameru's appointment as the new director general of Kenya's National Intelligence Service comes nearly a year after al Shabaab gunmen killed 67 people in an attack on Nairobi shopping mall.

Kenyan security bosses were lambasted by the public for failing to prevent the four-day siege and Kameru's predecessor, retired Major-General Michael Gichangi, resigned in August under pressure over a rise in attacks blamed on al Shabaab.

Kenya has suffered a string of gun and grenade attacks by the al Qaeda-affiliated group since its raid on Westgate mall, particularly in Nairobi and on the coast.

Godane, who publicly claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack, said the group would take revenge for Kenyan and Western involvement in Somalia. He has been replaced by little-known Ahmad Umar.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has said he picked Kameru for his success in intelligence-gathering in Somalia. Kenyan troops first launched an offensive against the Somali Islamists in October 2011, accusing the militants of raids inside Kenya.

The soldiers are now part of a U.N.-mandated African peacekeeping force in war-torn Somalia.

Analysts say Kenya's security and intelligence agencies, which receive support and training from the United States, Britain, Israel and others, are hampered by poor coordination.

Corruption also means Somali militants can easily buy travel documents or bribe their way across the border, they say.

In a statement from the presidency on Thursday, Kenyatta told the new security chief to work effectively with other government officials.

Kenya's tourism industry, a top foreign exchange earner, slumped badly because of the mall attacks. Some Western nations warned their citizens against travel to parts of Kenya, including coastal resorts, prompting mass cancellations.

(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)