The Kenyan Intelligence service who have been under fire as being laden by incompetent relatives of influential Kenyans reportedly had information over the Tuesday Dusit attack.
They were warned that al-Shabaab was planning terrorist attacks on high-profile targets in the country around Christmas and the new year.
According to The Guardian, a Western publication, warnings had been passed on several times in recent months and that western and regional security officials had been frustrated not to see a greater response from Kenyan authorities.
The news of the warnings is an embarrassment to authorities in Kenya, which is seen as a key local counter-terrorist player by the US, UK and other western powers.
An intelligence official however defended the claims saying the said information passed on by security partners about planned attacks lacked detail but that the country had been on high alert since November.
Another security source reportedly told Associated Press that the al-shabaab had confused security officials by changing target locations.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
And while Kenyan security forces have foiled several similar al-Shabaab attacks over recent years, several investigations have shown corruption has allowed extremists to move with ease across the border with Somalia.
The group has some networks and sympathizers in Kenya itself, mainly providing logistic support and recruits. However, attackers are often brought in from Somalia.
Security experts aver that Tuesday’s attack was designed to attract media attention.
“A terror attack is … purely media theatre. The number of casualties is not the primary objective. It is to attack a high-profile target, especially where westerners are going to be so the west is interested,” Hussein Sheikh-Ali is quoted by the Guardian.
“This Nairobi attack is a response first and foremost to the airstrikes. They are sending a message that the US strikes have not degraded them as the US military and some media have claimed. They are saying ‘we are in business’,” Ali said.
The extremist might have also struck Kenya to influence public opinion in Kenya. Kenyan forces are deployed in Somalia as part of multinational efforts to fight al-Shabaab. The Nairobi attack took place on the third anniversary of a huge assault on a Kenyan base in Somalia by militants in which as many as 180 Kenyan soldiers may have died.
Rashid Abdi, a Nairobi-based expert on al-Shabaab with the NGO International Crisis Group, said the terror group’s propaganda consistently highlighted the Kenyan presence in Somalia, but pointed out that international links meant there was a wider agenda driving the extremists too.
“If the Kenyans withdrew it would remove a big reason why al-Shabaab like to strike Kenya but if you have a group like al-Shabaab which is part of a global jihad movement then they would still find another reason. They see Nairobi with its big western presence as a bastion of the west,” Abdi said.