Hunt for terror suspect shifts to Mombasa

By Standard Team

Security officials in Mombasa and its environs are on heightened alert to capture a most wanted terrorist on the run who earlier eluded a police dragnet.

In a blistering 48 hours of drama after a Monday’s terrorist attack in the centre of Nairobi, the police and members of the Kenya Defence Forces arrested two men for questioning.

Monday’s blast fl attened the City’s landmark Assanands building on Moi Avenue.

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On Thursday soldiers stormed a hotel in Nanyuki and grabbed a man they suspect has been spotted carrying out surveillance on the Lakipia Airbase.

The other man was arrested by police in Nairobi, but later released after interrogations established he was not a wanted terrorist that escaped a police dragnet.

The man who was travelling to Kinshasha, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was pulled out of a Kenya Airways plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) just before takeoff.

Confirming the incident, the airport’s Provincial Criminal Investigation Officer (PCIO) Joseph said it was a case of mistaken identity.

He told The Standard the man was carrying two briefcases stuffed with miraa, but a close scrutiny cleared him of suspicion.

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illegal entry

Mombasa and other towns in the coast region are now under the radar over fears the terrorist, Emrah Erdogan said to be a German of Turkish extraction, could be planning more attacks in the region.

Last evening the head of the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU), Njeru Mwaniki confirmed that a man had been mistakenly arrested in Nairobi.

He told The Standard: “Early this morning my officers arrested a man they suspect was the terrorist (Emrah Erdogan) you are talking about who was in the newspaper, but on investigation we discovered he is not the one. He resembles that person, but we are soon going to release him.”

According to Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe Erdogan entered Kenya on May 3 with a Swiss friend Majid Najjar, to seek medical attention after being injured in a fight with Kenya Defence Forces in Afmadhow in Somalia’s Juba region.

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Last week, a Canadian national Jama’a Said Korshaal was arrested by ATPU officers in a mosque in Lamu and flown to Mombasa to face charges of illegal entry into Kenya.

He accused police of confiscating his passport amid reports he came to Kenya on a tourist visa, but it was not clear how he entered Lamu.

They later claimed he had been arrested loitering on the streets of Mombasa.

Tension has been rising in the coastal city since Tuesday evening when security authorities claimed to have received intelligence reports that Turkish national Emrah Erdogan had slipped in.

It is believed the Turkish man entered Kenya from Somalia through Garissa, and went to Nairobi before returning to the town.

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undisclosed airport

Early on Thursday a detective told The Standard the “suspect is already in Mombasa, but we do not know exactly where he is hiding”.

Police have refused to divulge any details on the alleged detention, or where it took place, although other sources in Nairobi had shown early on Thursday that a foreign terrorist suspect had been detained at an undisclosed airport while trying to fly to Kinshasa.

“The man who escaped the dragnet in Nairobi is in our custody,” claimed one ATPU officer in Mombasa who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the investigation, before the suspect from JKIA was released.

In Nanyuki, business came to a standstill around Joskaki Hotel in the centre of town as soldiers from the nearby Laikipia Airbase in full combat gear stormed the premises.

The foreigner, who was still being held by police on Thursday, was said to have been on a surveillance mission in the town.

Passers-by and hotel guests were astonished as the armed soldiers some in hoods stormed the hotel after words went round that a suspected terrorist was holed up there.

In a matter of minutes, the soldiers had managed to get into the room where the man was and flushed him out. The man was whisked away as police officers watched from the periphery.

The incident attracted a large crowd that milled around the premises to get a glimpse of the suspect.

Laikipia East Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Joshua Lutukai said the arrested man claimed he was a student from America.

But Lutukai said the claims could not be immediately verified, as the middle-aged man had no any identification papers.

entry points

“The man said he was a university student and was carrying out research on the Somalia conflict,” said Lutukai.

According to an army officer who cannot be quoted, as he is not authorised to speak to the media, suspicion against the man grew after he was scene hovering around Laikipia Airbase.

The OCPD said the military officers were still interrogating the suspect before handing him over to the ATPU for more questioning.

For most of the, week the ATPU have deployed plainclothes detectives to spy on many entry points and hotels. 

The latter were supplied with an enlarged photograph of the suspect and National Intelligence Service (NIS) deployed in the facilities to apprehend him if he surfaces.

Sources within ATPU said various police units were deployed in Mombasa to crackdown on the suspect.

“We have also recruited agents in most hotels and other places to check on the suspect,” he said.

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