During the burial of Lieutenant Amon Kiprotich Bett at Kapnyeberai, Nandi county, on Saturday, mourners were at a loss why so many security personnel were having their lives cut short in Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks by terrorists inside our borders.
Bett was among five soldiers killed on August 29 in the latest such IED attack by the al-Shabaab between Kiunga and Sankuri area of the expansive Boni Forest.
The soldiers were in a military truck escorting a water boozer. Some members of the military team survived with serious injuries.
Since May last year, more than 40 Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) personnel have lost lives in such attacks with 38 injured within our borders, according to the official figures. The National Police Service has lost 36 officers while 13 have been seriously injured.
In the same period, the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), a peace-keeping mission in Somalia, recorded 25 fatalities from IED attacks, but with a higher number of injuries, meaning that Amisom could be becoming more adaptive to the situation and may have put in place measures to reduce fatalities in areas prone to attacks.
The Kenya government should also invest in more equipment to minimise the high rate of fatalities from IED attacks. Containing the attacks may not be easy because the terrorists have local sympathisers and recruits who give them crucial information, but with better equipment and proper intelligence, the terrorists can be crushed.
Apparently, most of the IEDs are detonated using a mobile phone, meaning, the attackers are always within the 50-metre radius of the device to enable them detonate, the moment they see the target approaching the device.
In some cases, soldiers have nabbed the terrorists hiding in thickets planning to detonate the devices. That is when the safety of the routes they were taking dawned on them, prompting them to comb surrounding bushes on foot to ensure all is well.
Instead of using trucks and other military vehicles in the volatile areas, KDF should consider deploying Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) in such areas.
At the moment, it’s not clear how many APCs are functional in the military and the police. The soldiers should also get proper Counter IED (CIED) training to acquire the latest tactics, techniques and procedures.
It is also critical for the government to invest in military signal jammers which block a variety of frequencies, including cellphone signals, GPS, WiFi and Lojack. If the jammer blocks the frequencies of the attackers’ cellphones, there is no way the device can be detonated. —The writer is the Sports Editor, People Daily