NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya on Thursday swore in a new intelligence chief to tackle the rising threat from Somali Islamist militants bent on retaliation after U.S. missiles last week killed their leader Ahmed Godane.
Major-General Philip Kameru’s appointment as 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 have been lambasted by the public for failing to prevent the four-day Westgate mall 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 the Westgate raid a year ago, particularly in Nairobi and on the coast.
Godane, who 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 He has been replaced by little-known Ahmad Umar.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 them 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 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.
Kameru’s appointment coincided with a tightening of security at Kenya’s frontiers.
“We have beefed up security at all border points and any foreigners visiting or touring the country would be properly screened before being allowed into the country,” a police spokeswoman told Reuters.
Kenya’s tourism industry, a top foreign exchange earner, slumped badly because of the mall attacks. Some Western nations have warned their citizens against travel to parts of Kenya, including coastal resorts, prompting mass cancellations.