CIA-trained secret GSU team neutralizing terrorists in Kenya

RRT team
Covert RRT teaam countering terrorists in Kenya. [Photo courtesy]

The US government through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has played a crucial role in combating terrorism in Kenya.

CIA has trained a special force – Rapid Response Team (RRT) – drawn from the General Service Unit (GSU), a media report quoting declassified documents and several interviews indicate.

RRT is now Kenya’s highly-trained covert team to hunt down terrorists.

“The RRT was set up, trained, equipped and is guided on tactical counter-terror operations by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” a declassified investigation published by South Africa’s Daily Maverick.

RRT enjoys the use of sophisticated weapons such as M16 assault rifles, M4 carbines, Glock pistols, M79 grenade launchers, body armour, helmets, M67 and stinger CS grenades among others.

The elite team has 60 commandos who take instructions from a paramilitary liaison officer at the US Embassy in Nairobi according to insights by British journalist Namir Shabibi.

Kenya’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) and CIA provide information which forms part of RRT’s paramilitary raids.

“Often, the paramilitary team’s raids are driven by intelligence provided by the CIA as well as Kenya’s National Intelligence Service (NIS),” the paper wrote.

“However, multiple current and former US and Kenyan diplomatic, intelligence and police sources said Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, better known as MI6) plays a key role in identifying, tracking and fixing the location of targets, as well in decisions determining their fate: kill or capture.”

Working on full throttle, RRT has had high-value terrorists on target among them Mohamed ‘Modi’ Mwatsumiro, Jeremiah Okumu (‘Dudah Black’) Samir Khan and Kassim Omollo.

This elite unit is reportedly said to have been formed over ten years ago as KDF made entry into Somalia. The threat of retaliation attacks was rife which guided the decision to form the unit.

“Alarmed by Nairobi being a high-value target for al-Qaeda in East Africa, the US government decided to set aside a large pot of money for counter-terrorism assistance,” former ambassador to Kenya William Bellamy is quoted in the declassified documents.

However, Bellamy went on, it was hard to sell the idea to the Kenyan government due to suspicion among high cadres in the military and police service.

It was not until NIS got into a multi-agency agreement that the CIA became the liaison for all teams involved.

RRT started with a team of 18 officers being trained in the US. They were picked by the police service and NIS. They travelled to the US under the guise of sports scholarship.

“From there, the men were flown to another destination and driven in buses with blacked-out windows so that the trainees could not know the location,” the paper adds.

Upon their return, they became the pioneer paramilitary police squad whose main job was to neutralize terrorism.

CIA contractors, ex-special forces and Swat team members took the team through intense training although they never knew all along where exactly they were in the US, the paper adds.

The training encompassed tactical, close-quarter combat, weapons handling, intelligence gathering and surveillance.

“One of the RRT’s major coups took place in August 2009 when Kenyan and Western intelligence agencies detected a plot to stage simultaneous attacks on three hotels in Nairobi, one of which was to be visited by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ms Clinton would later be nominated the Democratic Party presidential candidate but lost to Donald Trump in 2016.

“A subsequent operation, driven by the CIA and NIS, pinpointed the location of suspects who were then captured by the RRT,” the paper reads. 

After this, RRT was to be deployed to neutralize terrorists in Somalia and later rendition suspects involved in a terrorist attack in Uganda in July 2010.

The team was also cardinal in the neutralizing a terror attack at the Garissa University and last year’s DusitD2 Hotel Complex terror attack.