Kenyan police have arrested two Iranians on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in concert with al-Shabaab, the extremist group based in southern Somalia.
Last year, Kenya launched a military operation across the border into Somalia to try and crush al-Shabaab Photo: ALAMY
6:44PM BST 22 Jun 2012
One of the suspects led police to a large cache of chemicals on Friday that officers believe could have been used to make explosives. The material was hidden at a golf club in the port city of Mombasa.
A senior anti-terrorism officer told The Daily Telegraph that the two men “were planning to help al-Shabaab carry out revenge attacks in Kenya because of the Kenya Defence Forces’ incursion inside Somalia”. Security sources said the men were suspected of planning attacks in Mombasa or Nairobi.
Last year, Kenya launched a military operation across the border into Somalia to try and crush al-Shabaab, after a wave of kidnappings of foreigners had severely damaged the tourism industry.
Since then, a series of attacks has taken place in Kenyan cities. The latest – a large bomb that exploded in central Nairobi – wounded more than 30 people, one of whom later died.
Police arrested the Iranians on Wednesday in Nairobi, with an official accusing the men of having links to a “wider network of terrorists”, including al-Shabaab.
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One suspect disclosed 15kg of chemicals in a hiding place at Mombasa Golf Club, a 9-hole course overlooking the Indian Ocean. Police believe this to be an ammonia-based compound and samples have been sent for tests.
“The substance was found on the premises of the Golf Club – not in the building but hidden in a hole under a bush on the course itself,” said Ambrose Munyasia, a senior police officer in Coast Province.
The police have not confirmed what charges – if any – the men will face. “Investigations into the Iranian nationals are ongoing and it is likely that they will soon appear in court,” said Francis Mwaka, a government spokesman.
In 2006, the United Nations identified Iran as one of seven countries breaking an arms embargo on Somalia by supplying the Islamist militants who then controlled much of the country’s south. A report compiled for the Security Council described three illegal shipments of weapons from Iran, including surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and rocket launchers, although Tehran denied the claims.
Earlier this year, Israel accused Iran of organising attacks on its diplomats in India and Georgia. Tehran denied involvement in the bombings, which injured several people in New Delhi. One day later, an Iranian man was seriously wounded while trying to throw a bomb at police in Thailand’s capital Bangkok.
Experts believe that Iran might seek to retaliate for the assassination of several of its nuclear scientists in Tehran, allegedly by Israel.
More . . .
Iranian agents arrested in Kenya were ‘looking for foreign targets’
Israel and Iran’s Cold War spills over into East Africa
Daniel Howden, in Nairobi – July 4, 2012
The cold war between Israel and Iran appears to have spilled into East Africa after two alleged Iranian agents arrested in Kenya on suspicion of plotting bomb attacks were claimed to have been targeting foreign interests, including the British High Commission.
Prior to their arrest on 19 June, the suspects had toured sites including the Israeli embassy in Nairobi and a golf course in the coastal city of Mombasa, as well as the British High Commission, according to Kenyan police sources.
Believed to be members of Iran’s secretive al-Quds corps, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi subsequently led authorities to a cache of high explosives.
The two men have been charged with illegal possession of 15 kilograms of RDX, a chemical previously used in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and 2010 Moscow metro attacks. They are due back in court in the Kenyan capital Nairobi later this month.
The plot, if confirmed, would be “par for the course (in the) killing games” that the two countries have been engaged in across the wider region, said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
The al-Quds corps is the part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard which has been tasked with carrying out attacks against Israel in reprisal for what Tehran claims is an assassination campaign against its nuclear scientists. The unit has “no clean, clear set of instructions”, said Mr Cordesman, and its operatives often launch freelance operations without orders from Tehran.
Security sources in Nairobi linked the Iranians’ presence to operations by Somali militants al-Shabaab, who are blamed for a campaign of grenade attacks following Kenya’s military incursion into neighbouring Somalia last October. Al-Shabaab has threatened to hit major targets in Kenya including Nairobi “skyscrapers”.
Investigators believe that the Iranian-imported chemicals could have been broken up into smaller batches and then used in a series of attacks that would not necessarily have been blamed on Iran.
Complicating Nairobi’s response is the fact that the arrests come as Kenya is finalising a controversial purchase of crude oil from Iran, a move that risks violating international sanctions in response to allegations that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Nairobi has signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase 4m tonnes of crude oil from Iran despite US moves to strengthen sanctions and the EU’s approval of an embargo on Iranian oil.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Iran was “the greatest exporter of terror” after the arrests.
Israel and Iran have been accused of playing proxy war in the two Sudans after Tehran sought closer links with northern Sudan’s regime, while Israel has begun arms sales to South Sudan.
Read the original article here.