|Hundreds of suspects await security screening at the Changamwe Police Station in Mombasa Sunday. [Photo: Maarufu Mohamed/Standard]|
By Benard Sanga and Philip Mwakio
Mombasa, Kenya: More than 100 illegal immigrants from Somalia and other countries were arrested in parts of Mombasa on Saturday night as the anti-terror operation spread to the Coast.
Hundreds of officers from the Anti-terrorism Police Unit, General Service Unit and other police forces accompanied by immigration officers swept into Changamwe and Nyali estates in trucks and ordered doors opened. They demanded identification papers and seized those without Kenyan papers but also took away those suspected to have forged Identity Cards.
Police claim most of those arrested had just arrived in Changamwe to hide after sneaking through the police operation in Nairobi’s Eastleigh Estate on Friday. Intelligence sources told The Standard that besides aliens, the operation also targeted terror suspects, human traffickers and terror financiers based on intelligence supplied by some businessmen and the Somalia government.
Nominated MP Sunjeev Birdi said the Government should not relent in the anti-terror operation, adding that stopping the crackdown will “allow terrorists to regroup.”
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But police also disclosed that a second raid on the Mogadishu Estate in Nyali yielded nothing because targeted aliens had already escaped before the operation. This came amid fears that Al Shabaab militants linked to slain radical islamist Sheikh Makaburi have chosen a firebrand cleric from Majid Musa to replace him within Al Hijra, Al Shabaab’s Kenyan affiliate which Makaburi led.
Yesterday, Mombasa Deputy Police Commander Sevelino Kubai denied reports that the aliens fled after receiving a leak on an impending police raid, saying that “the aliens we had targeted in Nyali were not available when we arrived and all their rooms were locked.”
Normal crime prevention
Kubai claimed there was no one to open the gates when police entered the area at 8.00pm until 10.00pm.
Reports indicate the operation will go on and is most likely to target areas like Bondeni, Majengo, Kikambala and Kisauni areas where police claim thousands of aliens live illegally or have forged Kenyan papers to acquire property. The areas are also believed to be harbouring several businessmen linked to terrorism financing and money laundering.
Several Kenyans were also captured during the raids around Changamwe.
However, Kubai said the operation targeted foreigners without identity papers “who fled the ongoing security operation in Nairobi,” but that Kenyans detained could have been held for “other offences.”
Thousands of relatives and friends thronged Changamwe police station to meet detained kin and seek their release.
Local OCPD Joseph Muthee told The Standard that 69 people were detained but earlier, Kubai disclosed that “about 100 suspects were detained and we are still screening them.”
Muthee defended the operation terming it a normal police crime prevention exercise. He said those without blemish shall be let loose.
However, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi criticised police due to the manner in which they carried out the operation.
Among those arrested was a Kenya Ports Authority Gantry Machine Operator, Mr Salaad Maalim Mohamed. Hussein Mohamed , a close confidant of Salaad claimed the suspect had valid Kenyan papers.
MPs speak out
Meanwhile, several MPS from Coast said the operation against terrorists and illegal aliens should be in tandem with reform of the Immigration department, which they argued is responsible for issuance of Kenyan papers to foreigners.
The leaders who were speaking in Mombasa yesterday during the official opening of Zaneet Salon said that besides cleaning the mess at the Immigration department, Kenya should co-ordinate its security operations with its neighbours to net suspects who flee or enter across international borders.
-Additional reporting by Willis Oketch