January 25, 2016 By Memunatu Bangura
Publicity and Outreach Coordinator in the Office of the Government Spokesman, Abdulai Bayraytay, disclosed last week that the government was “well equipped to handle any threat posed by Al-Shabab in the country”.
He was speaking at the weekly government press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information and Communications, while responding to questions about whether government was prepared for any terrorist threat following jihadist attacks on hotels in Mali and Burkina Faso recently.
Baytaytay said the country was safe and stable and that government was still committed to sending police and military personnel on peace keeping missions in Somalia and other part of the world.
The Sierra Leone contingent to war-torn Somalia had to withdraw last year because of the deadly Ebola outbreak as troops had no replacement. Prior to that, the Al-Qaida affiliated Al-Shabab had threatened to attack Sierra Leone, just as it had done in other troop contributing countries – Kenya and Uganda – to the African Union Mission to Somalia
But the government publicity coordinator revealed the Sierra Leone contingent would soon return to Somalia to continue their peacekeeping duties.
He further told newsmen that security personnel were on the alert to thwart any terrorist threat in the country.
He debunked rumours on social media that there was an imminent threat of terrorist to attack hotels in Freetown.
Gunmen linked to Al-Qaida attacked the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali last year taking 170 people hostages, with the death toll reported at 21, leaving at least six people injured.
Another terrorist attack on a hotel frequented by foreigners in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, left 22 people dead, mostly foreigners last week.
The attacks in Bamako and Ouagadougou have left many apprehensive that similar attempts could be made in other West Africa capitals, including Freetown. The capital also has a four-star Radisson Blu-Mammy Yoko hotel, frequented by foreigners, and the Country Lodge, a popular destination for aid workers.
The management of Radisson Blu-Mammy Yoko hotel in Freetown has reportedly tightened security around the hotel in the wake of the two deadly attacks in the sub-region. A private security outfit, G4 security, has beefed up security at the main entrance to screen and search people and vehicles entering the hotel.
Bayraytay admonished hotel owners to report any suspicious criminal action or movement around their vicinity, and cautioned them against relaxing security details especially at night.
The Office of National Security has issued a press release that no terrorist threat was imminent in the capital or the country and assured citizens of their security. But the United States embassy in Freetown has cautioned US citizens in the country to take extra security precaution.