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National Intelligence Service brief showed Al-Shabaab cell had been activated in Mombasa

By - Bernard Sanga | September 24th 2013
Security officers and journalists take cover behind a vehicle as  heavy gunfire erupts from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Monday.  [PHOTO: AP]

By Bernard Sanga

KENYA: The spy agency wrote a report a month ago indicating it had received information showing that an Al-Shabaab cell had been activated in Mtopanga, Mombasa.

The National Intelligence Service report alleged that four men or mujahidin had crossed from Somalia through Kiunga into Mombasa around August 15 to join the cell, which includes two radical clerics.

One of the clerics identified as Ismail (second named withheld) was said to be the head of the Mtopanga cell.

According to an intelligence brief seen by The Standard, the four men whose identities and nationalities were not indicated were newly trained jihadists with a mission to strike targets in Mombasa and Nairobi to mark the first anniversary of the August 27, 2012, killing of radical Islamist Sheikh Aboud Rogo.

The two clerics were to co-ordinate attacks against shopping malls, police stations, churches and other installations as Mombasa prepared to mark several functions, including a presidential visit.

“Yes we are aware of that intelligence report and we know that there are plans by Al-Shaabab to attack functions that are highly populated. We are on ‘red alert’ because as you are aware, from Sunday there will be several international functions and we expect high-profile visitors in the region,” said Robert Kitur, Mombasa County Police Commander on August 22, when The Standard contacted him.

Plan to kill

The report also indicated that the militants planned to kill four officers from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit ATPU.

Kitur said police were doing “everything possible to avert the attacks” and urged members of the public to be extra vigilant.

President Uhuru Kenyatta toured Mombasa to commission Berth 19 at the port of Mombasa. According to the report, terrorists were planning to attack Bamburi, Likoni, Nyali, Kijipwa and Frere Town police stations.

Intelligence officials in Mombasa have informally told The Standard that major attacks were averted by heightened surveillance or when the plans leaked but the alleged jihadists were not arrested.

There are two theories on the jihadists’ whereabouts, with some officials indicating the four men travelled out of Nairobi. It has also been suggested that the activation of the Mtopanga cell could have been a diversion as Al-Shabaab planned a massive attack in Nairobi.

Other intelligence accounts indicate that there have been a number of infiltrations of newly trained jihadists into Coast Province. Some are retreating due to disillusionment but others are returning to Kenya to wage jihad.

A key operative in the latter category is fugitive Fuad Abubakar Manswab who is believed to have escaped to Kismayu in Somalia after jumping bail in a terrorist trial in which his co-accused is British terror suspect, Jermaine Grant.

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