By Cyrus Ombati
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Edward Panetta made a secret visit to Kenya at the weekend where he is believed to have delivered President Barack Obama’s message on governance and terrorism to the Government.
Mr Panetta arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Thursday evening and left last evening.
We could not confirm reports that he met President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Interestingly, Panetta arrived the same day Jamaican cleric Abdullah Al-Faisal left the country.
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Senior Government officials declined to comment on the visit terming it "very sensitive".
Sources, however, said the director’s visit had much to do with the spread and rebuilding of al-Qaeda militants in Somalia.
Panetta also met with senior National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) officials led by Director General Michael Gichangi and a few police officers at his hotel in Nairobi.
Our sources said the CIA boss wanted to ask the country’s leadership to be tougher on terrorism matters and especially al-Qaeda, who America believes are rebuilding fast in the Horn of Africa. This followed reports that al-Qaeda fighters have begun arriving in Somalia to carry out a war against the State seen by Islamists to be supported by the West.
Security experts say some 200 foreign jihadists have arrived from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, India, and even the US, who serve as military trainers and experts in explosives.
The foreign jihadists are staying on to transform the nationalist fight into a global jihad, and their ideology was seen in a rash of recent suicide bomb attacks on AU peacekeepers and even a university graduation ceremony on December 3 last year, in Mogadishu.
Experts say this was a sign that foreign jihadists have taken over leadership of Somalia’s largest Islamist militia, al Shabaab.
FBI Director Robert Mueller had earlier on told the Senate in the US that al-Qaeda and its offshoots were spreading and rebuilding. He said the US dismantled much of al-Qaeda’s infrastructure in Afghanistan, but the terror network and its associated groups were rebuilding in Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa.
Mr Mueller was testifying at a Senate hearing last week in the wake of the Christmas bomb attack attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner.
The CIA is also taking heat for the foiled attack, with US officials saying the Nigerian accused of trying to detonate explosives aboard a US-bound airliner, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, received training from an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.
President Obama has ordered urgent action at security and intelligence agencies to fix flaws exposed by the narrowly averted attack, saying spy agencies did not properly "connect and understand" information that could have uncovered the plot during its planning stages.
FBI has so far circulated a new digitally enhanced and retouched photo of the most wanted al-Qaeda operative in East Africa, Fazul Abduallah Mohammed.
Fazul is the commander of al-Qaeda in Somalia.