US, Kenya set up joint terrorism task force

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The United States and Kenya have set up a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said on Monday in a press statement.

The task force will operate in Kenya. It is the first of such to be located outside the U.S., the statement said.

The U.S.-funded task force, which will be led by Kenya, will be a multi-agency counterterrorism investigative force as part of a “comprehensive program with Kenya to promote terrorism investigations and prosecutions, enhance crisis response, and strengthen border security”.

Forty-two Kenyan investigators have already been selected for counterterrorism training in the U.S.

“The 42 selected Kenyan investigators will receive a 12-week intensive counterterrorism training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI will administer the curriculum and provide training with assistance from other agencies, as applicable. The FBI and the CT Bureau will collaboratively assess the program.

“The team will adopt methodologies used by U.S.-based JTTFs and be trained to handle sensitive counterterrorism intelligence shared with the Kenyan government. The investigators will be trained and equipped to investigate all terrorism matters deemed of significant importance to Kenya’s National Security Council. Upon completion of the course, the JTTF-K officers will return to Kenya, where they will be assisted by an FBI special agent mentor,” the statement said.

“Investigations conducted by JTTF-K will be carried out in accordance with international law enforcement standards and in comportment with human rights. Legal authorities will be derived from the Kenyan constitution and international treaties. Cases will be prosecuted in Kenya’s courts, which promotes the U.S. goal of enabling foreign partners to successfully counter terrorist threats,” the statement added.

The FBI said the joint task force initiative began after the Al-Shabaab terrorist attack on the DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi on January 16, 2019.

Fifteen people, including one American citizen, were killed in the attack, according to a BBC report.

The East African country, which is a choice destination for western tourists, has a history of terrorist attacks, one of the worst being the 1998 bombing of the U.S Embassy in Nairobi which killed 213 people.

The militant group Al-Shabaab, in 2013, killed 67 people in an attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2019 placed Kenya on the 21st position among the nations of the world that are most impacted by terrorism.

Meanwhile, Nigeria, another African country plagued by terrorism, has for five consecutive years occupied an unenviable third position in the GTI ranking.

The FBI, together with another U.S agency, the State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism’s (CT Bureau), would be providing training and capacity building for the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Kenya, the FBI said.

“The FBI is proud to have the opportunity to work with our Kenyan law enforcement partners on this initiative,” said assistant director, International Operations Division, Charles Spencer.

“The first Kenyan JTTF will allow for a sharing of experience, knowledge, and capabilities that will enhance our shared commitment to countering terrorism around the world.”

“For over two decades, the CT Bureau has supported Kenya’s efforts to improve its law enforcement capacity to defend its borders and become a counterterrorism leader in East Africa,” said Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism.

“The JTTF for Kenya will support the interagency approach required to successfully investigate and prosecute terrorists before they conduct attacks. I look forward to this unit standing up and the results that will surely come.”

George Kinoti, Kenya’s Director of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, said the U.S has been a “valued partner” in Kenya’s fight against terrorism.

“I appreciate the effort and resources the FBI and Department of State have dedicated toward improving the capabilities of our officers through training, experience, and insight.

“Due to globalization and the rapid advancement in technology, terrorists and their sympathizers have also changed tactics and devised new methods to further their agenda. Endeavors such as the Kenyan Joint Terrorism Task Force will allow for a multi-agency approach to achieve common objectives and assist us in obtaining the upper hand against the enemy,” Kinoti said.

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