By STANDARD on SATURDAY TEAM
Police are looking for six Kenyans believed to be planning attacks on mosques in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Garissa in an attempt to spark religious hatred.
The six include Ahmed Iman Ali, Al Shabaab’s leader and co-ordinator for Kenya, and Abdikadir ‘Ikrima’ Mohammed, an Al-Qaeda commander of foreign fighters in Somalia. It is not clear when and how the six entered the country from Somalia, where Al Shabaab foreign fighters are on the run from African Union and Transitional Federal Government forces.
“Their goal is to create religious conflict,” a high-placed security source told The Standard On Saturday on condition of anonymity. “After the Garissa attacks, they plan to attack mosques and burn copies of the Quran.”
Security reports name the six Kenyans as Ali, Ikrima, Kahale Famau Kahale (Abdulghafur Ahmed), Eric Achayo Oganda (Ibra), Juma Otit Ayub Were and Athumani Ahmed. Security officials have released photographs and other personal details to help identify the terror suspects.
Sources familiar with their alleged plot say the mosque attacks are meant to seem like revenge for the killings of 17 people on July 1 in raids on two churches in Garissa. Sources claim the terrorists believe conditions in Kenya are ripe for religious and ethnic divisions.
“Some of the weaknesses they have identified include tribalism and Kenyans’ apathy towards security machinery,” the report states.
The Garissa attacks, blamed on Al Shabaab, resembled those used by Nigerian Islamic militant group Boko Haram. Members of the group have been training in Somalia in recent months. Their attacks on religious sites in Nigeria have led to Muslim-Christian conflicts that have claimed hundreds of lives.
Last month, United States and United Kingdom security officials raised concerns about new operational links between Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, and Al Qaeda (in Yemen and the Maghreb). There are fears Kenya may see more attacks by Boko Haram-trained Kenyan terrorists.
Meanwhile, the hunt for a British terror financier hiding in Kenya took on new urgency in the week leading up to the anniversary of the first attack to which she has been linked. Security personnel from at least three countries this week scaled up the search for Samantha Lewthwaite amid fears of an attack planned for today — the seventh anniversary of a 2005 bombing in which her 19-year-old husband helped kill 52 people in London. The July 7 attack on the city’s transport system remains the worst ever to hit the UK.
Kenyan sympathisers helping keep her hidden responded to the new hunt by claiming that Lewthwaite has fled to Somalia for a second time. “We know she is safe back in Somalia,” the Al Shabaab affiliated Muslim Youth Centre (MYC) wrote on Twitter on Thursday evening, just hours after President Kibaki released a statement warning terrorists of all stripe: “We will hunt you down. We will not relent in our pursuit or be intimidated.” The statement accompanied changes in the leadership of the Provincial Administration and the police in North Eastern and Coast regions.