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What to watch out for to be safe this holiday

Monday December 21 2015

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery buys a jacket at a shop at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on December 21, 2105. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery buys a jacket at a shop at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi on December 21, 2105. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FRED MUKINDA
By FRED MUKINDA
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The government is urging citizens to be on the lookout this festive season as terrorists are planning attacks.

The ministry of Interior has told the public to be wary of suspicious persons, vehicles and luggage.

The ministry says crowded places and public transport vehicles are particularly targeted.

Among areas identified as ‘potential soft targets’ are shopping malls, restaurants, places of worship, buses and bus stops, airports, railway stations, learning institutions and ferries.

In a notice, the government advises the public to keep off the scenes of attacks in the event of an explosion.

People are also warned not to attempt to “handle a situation you are not conversant with,” in the event of an incident.

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The notice appeals for public support to detect, deter and disrupt terrorist attacks.

It says: “The government has put in place measures to enhance the level of preparedness to deter, detect and disrupt terrorist activities. Citizens have a role in counter terrorism and prevent criminal activities by being vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity, item and persons.”

Terrorists are also planning to hit ‘vital and key installations’, because of their ‘economic, political, symbolic and iconic importance’. Such areas include government buildings and offices, police stations, embassies, airports and international companies, among others.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has, however, assured the public of safety and ordered security to be heightened in public places across the country.

“We have put in place very elaborate plans to ensure Kenya remains safe during the festive season. Security agencies have been instructed accordingly all over the country,” he said.

Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery spoke during a tour of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, yesterday.

The mall was reopened in August following closure occasioned by a terror attack in 2013, during which 67 people were killed and over 250 others injured.

The minister toured businesses at the mall, shopped at Nakumatt supermarket and had lunch at ArtCaffe.

The notice also tells owners of premises that will host Christmas and New Year parties to thoroughly search clients before admitting them.

They are also required to secure emergency exits at all times, regularly check the washrooms for abandoned items, assess emergency preparedness, break routines to avoid falling prey to terror traps and report any suspicious activities.

Motorists will also be required to allow security personnel to search vehicles.

“If there are concerns that anyone is involved in terrorism or planning to commit terrorism acts, please contact the nearest police station, security officials in your area, including the county commissioner,” says the notice.

Hotlines to report terror suspicions include 999, 991 and 112.

The callers will be required to describe what they observe, state the location, give accurate time and briefly explain why they believe an occurrence is suspicious.

And in case of an attack, citizens have been told to leave the area immediately and in case there is an explosion, to keep off the scene.

Unattended luggage should also not be moved and people are advised to report them to police.

The notice comes hours after Al-Shabaab terrorist attacked a bus in Mandera, killing two people and injuring three others.

“The ambush is very unfortunate and security agencies will pursue the criminals. Lucky the bus was being escorted by armed personnel. The unity of purpose that we as Kenyans shall not be separated by religion is very encouraging. That was a very good message from our (Muslim) brothers and sisters,” said Mr Nkaissery.

He was referring to an act by the travellers who stood up to the terrorists and stopped them from separating Muslims and Christians into two groups during the 7am incident.

Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery was accompanied by the ministry’s Principal Secretary Monicah Juma, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and Director of Immigration Gordon Kihalangwa.