Saturday, September 21, 2013

Security lessons from the Kenya terrorist attacks

I'm sure that by now, most readers have heard of the terrorist attack this morning on a suburban shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, by the Al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabab.  It had long threatened such an attack in retaliation for Kenya's role in suppressing its domination of neighboring Somalia.

There are some extremely graphic photographs of the scene at Buzzfeed.  I recommend looking at them, not out of prurient curiosity, but so as to improve your own tactical awareness.  Notice how the shopping mall was a virtual duplicate of many that one finds in cities and towns all across the USA.  That attack could have happened right here . . . and the odds are pretty good that one day, it will.

I've written before about the Beslan attacks in Russia, and the likelihood that terrorists will strike at 'soft' surburban targets such as schools and shopping malls, where they know they're likely to find plenty of defenseless victims, rather than targeting places where the occupants are armed and may shoot back.  They did so at Mumbai, India in 2008.  The Al-Shabab movement clearly learned its lessons well from that operation.  I'll bet my income for the rest of my life against the change in your pocket that other terrorists, individually and collectively, are right now trying to plan a similar attack against the USA.

Go look at those photographs, gruesome though you may find them.  Look at the interior of that shopping center.  Ask yourself how often you go to places like that.  Are you armed when you do so?  If not, why not - and if the mall won't allow armed persons inside, why go there at all?  Why allow them to dictate that you have to be incapable of defending yourself and/or your loved ones?  I've written many articles about self-defense and firearms (see the list in the sidebar headed 'Articles on firearms and self-defense').  Read them, learn more from other sites, and implement those lessons now, before it's too late.

As for the shopping centers you frequent:  do you know the location of their exits - including the goods entrances, not normally used by the public, and the emergency exits?  Can you find your way to them amidst the panic and confusion of an ongoing attack, with gunshots and explosions sounding, people screaming and running in every direction, and chaos disrupting everything?  What if the lights go out?  Are there sources of natural light, or is the complex completely closed off from the outside world, without so much as a window or skylight?  What if the building catches fire?  Can you make your way through choking smoke and possible flames to safety?  If not, learn how - now!  What about the parking areas outside?  Can cars get away from the complex quickly and easily, or are access routes limited and easily blocked by terrorists or clogged by traffic?

Think about those things . . . and decide now, before a crisis arises, whether you want to put yourself into a situation that might 'go bad' on you, as it did for the shoppers in the Westgate mall in Nairobi this morning.

It's too late for the dead at Westgate to learn.  It's not too late for you.




Mike_C said...

Good points, as usual, Peter.

On the political front, I would be very surprised if these terrible events were not spun into net gain for Uhuru Kenyatta. Surely the ICC would not want to aid the terrorists by prosecuting the democratically elected (or not) president of a nation on the front lines of global terrorism, not?

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree, you are proposing a population take part in an arms race in order to have a small chance in protecting themselves in a situation that is by the numbers, extremely rare. All you are doing is ensuring the next conflict is bloodier and more brutal as an armed populace has never prevented crime and has shown in the U.S Crime states vs other developed worlds has a ridiculously high amount of crime actually introduced because of it. Also, since when was it ok for the average untrained, uneducated person's right to murder someone if they feel threatened. What a ghastly thought and particularly Americans who should be ashamed to be proud of such a notion. Criminals are usually desperate and the fact that you condone murder or are happy to use it as a deterrent for crime shows we have not evolved as people at all. If you want to do some good here help remove the precursors for crime (poverty, drugs, unemployment, abuse, family issues). The day you carry a gun for protection in your own home town is the day the terrorists win. PERIOD.

Peter said...

@Anonymous: I didn't spend eighteen years fighting terrorism - sometimes with a gun, sometimes by other means - to become a voluntary victim. Your comment about 'precursors for crime' shows the extent of your ignorance. Criminals mostly choose to be criminals, they're not made that way. Read my latest book to see how wrong you are - I don't have time to explain it all here. Suffice it to say that if you want to be a victim, go ahead. I'll choose another way, thank you very much: and if I have to go down under a terrorist attack, I'll do my damnedest to take one or more of them with me.

Rolf said...

Anonymous, you are spewing a victim-mentality, anti-freedom, self-defeating, anti-American, state-dependent party line nearly verbatim. The day you refuse to take active measures to protect you and yours, and you choose to cower behind a state-sanctified gunman with a badge that might (or might not) show up in time, and has more than five times the chance of shooting an innocent person than a person defending themselves, is the day you cease being a free person, and you become a serf on the state's plantation. Educated yourself from more reliable sources.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, which school are you protecting next, Columbine or Sandy Hook?

Peter said...

Anonymous, I note that you're commenting from Sydney, Australia. Not exactly someone familiar with Beslan, or terrorism in the rest of the world, or the situation in the USA, I presume? Including both Columbine and Sandy Hook?

I'm not going to continue the debate. It's all been said before. See my articles on firearms and self-defense in the sidebar. You're welcome to disagree if you wish. I'll remain armed and ready to defend myself and my loved ones. I've buried enough of them in the past to know how important that is.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine and I have had this discussion several times, and we've settled down to wondering which holiday the bad guys will use. I'm leaning to Thanksgiving, and last time we chatted, he still favored the day after Christmas. We're living in a grim world.

And yes, I know where every exit is at all times.


Rolf said...

Anonymous- I protect whatever school I'm teaching at as best I can. They don't allow guns, ensuring only the bad guys have them. But hastily-distributed high-lumen flashlights, science-class appropriate tools (the shovel "left over" from the wetlands dig, the heavy cast iron 3-hole punch, etc), various kinds of sporting equipment, and a non-victim mentality might make a difference. I've been in a real school lock-down before, gunman seen near campus. My students were amazed at how much weaponry there really was in a classroom, and the hastily-described defensive tactics that took all of thirty seconds to explain made a huge difference in attitude. Talking to students that had been in other classes, most of them said they were scared; mine said they rapidly got bored, and just wished he'd come through the door already so they could do something about it, or go away so it could get called off.

Glen said...

There is video available now as well. Most people not directly involved seem to wander around in the general direction of the noise, trying to see what is going on.

Besides being aware of exits, one should be aware of cover. Shelves of goods offer some concealment, but no cover. The same can be said for most interior walls.

I set the following priorities:

1. Leave at first sign of trouble.
2. If that is not possible, seek cover-don't just hide.
3. Decide whether to attack the attackers, or flee when the chance arrives. If you attack, pick a target and your trigger i.e.:"When I see a gunman's torso, I will fire". If you decide to flee..plan your route, and your trigger "When there is a five count of no shots, I will run through that passageway, and out the fire door".

Stop-Think-Act will always work much better than Stop-Hope.

Palm City Girl said...

Well I guess my aversion to malls is a good thing. I spend way too much money in bass pro shop, gander and the like. It would be "hi-lair-ious" (intentionally spelled that way) to see a terrorist try to ransack a store devoted to the outdoors life

Glen said...

Yesterday's news had more store camera footage, and it now appears that there may have been only 4 (four) shooters.

Four people with packs and bags produce weapons and start at attack.

The initial reports described a situation that could not be successfully handled by an armed and alert individual. (Being armed means being trained, not just carrying a weapon).

The reality seems to be the situation encountered in the "Dozier Drill". A situation where an efficient shottist may indeed prevail.

There are always profound spiritual and philosophical reasons to resist an attack. In this case, as in many others there was also a chance of victory.

Anonymous said...

One would be well advised to consider the shooting in the Clakimus Mall (near Portland Oregon) in December 2012. Notable is the fact that the gunman shooting up the place was interrupted by a (licensed) CCW citizen.

I am not computer skilled enough to get a link in here, but Google search for "Portland Oregon mall shooting" for the details.

Remember, when seconds count the police are just minutes away.

For a quarter century I was that guy minutes away... too many times.

Left-coast Mike

John Cunningham said...


I saw a movie once where only the police and the military had guns; it was called Schindler's List.