Back to Africa Check

Kenya police ask public to disregard letter warning of terror attacks over Christmas

IN SHORT: Kenya has been targeted by the Somali militant group al-Shabaab for years. But the police say a letter warning of holiday attacks in the capital of Nairobi should be disregarded.

A letter seemingly from Kenya’s police warning of impending terrorist attacks is doing the rounds online, alarming many in a country that has been targeted in the past.

Titled “AL-SHABAAB PLANS TO LAUNCH ATTACKS DURING CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES,” the document uses the Kenya Police Service letterhead and is addressed to the country’s police stations.

The letter, dated 13 December 2022,  warns that the Somali terror group al-Shabaab will target a major church centre and four large shopping malls in Nairobi – Nairobi West Mall, Capital Centre, Garden City Mall and T-Mall.

It continues: “ACTION: ALL STAPOLS- There is need for deployment of armed security officers in and around the vulnerable installations, patrols, impromptu roadblocks and vehicle searches to deter AS from fulfilling its mission.”

The letter is signed by Timon O Odingo, a sub-county police commander.


Attacks linked to al-Shabaab 

The letter appeared online days after a father and son were killed by suspected al-Shabaab militants in Mandera, a far northeastern county on Kenya’s border with Somalia.

Three others, including police reservists, were injured.

The militant group has launched major attacks in Kenya. On 21 September 2013, at least 67 people were killed after al-Shabaab attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

The letter has also been posted on Facebook, here, here, here and here. But is it legitimate?

Letter ‘not from office of inspector general’

The letter did not come from the office of the inspector general and the officer who signed it was not authorised to distribute it, according to a 14 December statement by Kenya’s National Police Service.

The statement reads: “In tandem with the communication procedure within the National Police Service, we wish to clarify that the letter has neither originated from the Office of the Inspector General, nor has the undersigned officer received any instructions in accordance with the chain of command, to author or disseminate the letter.

“As a deterrence measure, administrative action has been taken against the concerned officer.”

Japhet Koome, the inspector general of police, assured the public that the country was safe and under strict surveillance by security teams from several agencies, adding that people should continue with their daily business without fear.

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.