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Shocking cache of terror arsenal found in Mombasa

Bomb experts comb through the Toyota Hilux in which explosives and other weapons were discovered at the Mombasa Police Headquarters, Tuesday. [PHOTO: MAARUFU MOHAMED/STANDARD]

By BENARD SANGA, NGUMBAU KITHI and WILLIS OKETCH

Mombasa, Kenya: Mombasa town was in a state of shock Tuesday evening following the discovery of a massive car bomb which US and Kenyan anti-terror experts believe was transported into the coastal city to commit what would have been one of the deadliest terrorist acts in Kenya.

Tuesday evening, bomb disposal experts from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Kenya police and Kenya Navy were still stripping the explosives-laden car for additional weapons following Monday’s discovery of in-built Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) welded to the floor and back seat of the Toyota Hilux registration number KAN 410E whose occupants were initially arrested possessing an un-customed vehicle. It is believed the FBI played a crucial role in tracking the vehicle from Somalia after it entered Kenya through Mandera and Garissa early this month.

Last evening, police found six  grenades, an AK 47 assault rifle, 270 bullets, six cylindrical bombs weighing 10 kilogrammes each, 5 magazines, 6 detonators, a Nokia cell phone and 6 electronic cables amid reports occupants of the car were surveying targets in Mombasa for about a week after meeting their contacts in the coastal city. A third suspect was arrested yesterday evening, according to reliable reports.

The sense of panic was exacerbated last evening when The Standard learnt that an offshoot of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular, AQIP, could be behind what is believed to be a massive terror plot on shopping malls in Mombasa. Intelligence sources told The Standard that the plotters of the alleged scheme had been linked by the FBI to the September 22 Westgate Shopping Mall.

The cellphone lines used by the two suspects in custody yesterday had communicated to alleged Somali-based organisers of the Westgate carnage.

Meanwhile, investigators are looking at fresh reports of a four-man Al Qaeda team that entered Kenya on August 15 from Kismayu to commit terror attacks in Mombasa to commemorate the August 27 killing of radical Islamic preacher Sheikh Aboud Rogo, who had links to Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab.

The AQIP angle is given credence by a warning on an extremist website, February, that last month warned of a terror attack in Mombasa, Nairobi and Chicago in the USA to retaliate against the “occupation of Somalia” through financial and military support for the AMISOM mission.

In its 14th edition, February conducted an online training session on how to manufacture a car bomb. Addressing Al Qaeda cells in the three cities, the writer of the article said: “We  warned you not to occupy Somalia but you ignored our warning and so it is time to pay.”

Experts believe AQIP could have been given the mandate by Al Qaeda to commit the terror acts following the decimation of key Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda leaders in East Africa and Mombasa.

Foreign bomb disposal experts brought in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) robots to assist disable the Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) discovered in Mombasa on Monday as it emerged yesterday that the bomb may have been at the police station for a week.

The police are said to have received a tip-off from the FBI on Monday evening on the presence of a bomb stuffed in the back seat of a blue Toyota Hilux KAN 410E which was parked among the impounded vehicles at the police headquarters.

The Standard can reveal the two suspects in police custody are Mr Abdiazizi Abdullahi Abdi, a Somalia national and Mr Isaac Noor Ibrahim, a Kenyan of Somali origin.

Police sources indicated that, since Wednesday, the two were being held for being in the country illegally and not for terrorism-related offences.

The Standard has also learnt that the explosives-laden car was detected by a US tracking team. Their vehicle was parked at the Coast police headquarters with the explosive device, which the police now believe was meant to carry out “a massive terror attack”.

Reports indicate that the two were only in the anti-terror radar of foreign security agents in the country including the FBI and were being trailed by these agencies after their communication with Al Shabaab militants in Somalia was detected late last year.

The team of bomb experts led by Eliud Lang'at from the Bomb Disposal Unit headquarters arrived after the military personnel that was called in on Monday night moved out yesterday.

Planning to attack

Security has since Monday been beefed up in the island town and use of motorcycles at the Moi International airport, Mombasa banned.

The civilians working at the police headquarters have been ordered to go home. Yesterday, Mombasa County Commander Nelson Marwa warned that the two explosives had the power to “blow out the whole town”, confirming the words of the bomb expert source who said on Monday night that one of the explosives had the power to bring down a ten-storey building. 

Marwa, however, did not give details on where the bombs were assembled or where the terrorists were planning to attack but revealed that the explosives were connected to a mobile phone, which was to be the detonator.

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