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Storm over terror threat at JKIA

By | October 7th 2009

By CCI Team

Police are investigating a highly sensitive terrorism case involving alleged Al-Qaeda suspects keen on setting up a base in the city, CCI can reveal.

The Anti Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has been interviewing some of the suspects who have allegedly been aiding the terrorists to acquire a parcel of land near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Among those who have been intensely interrogated, CCI established, include Somali nationals doing business in Nairobi and some land surveyors who were helping them to search for the land. The suspects cannot be named for legal reasons.

The airport fence has not been repaired and there are no police officers to ward off intruders. PHOTO: STANDARD

Interestingly, even as ATPU officers proceed with the enquiries, they are also investigating a land surveyor cum property dealer who tipped them on this alleged scheme by terrorists to purchase a 10 acre piece of land at Syokimau Scheme next to JKIA.

The ATPU Commandant Mr Nicholas Kamwende confirmed the investigations on the terrorist’s scheme were ongoing.

"We have interrogated several people but we are yet to finish our investigations," he said.

"The allegations made by our informer are, however, not well grounded. We haven’t found much in the people we have interviewed," he added saying the informer may not be credible. "Professionally, I think he is lying though the story looks very credible."

But even as ATPU chief dismissed the informer as not being credible, CCI, which has been on the trails of the story for several weeks, was able to interview the surveyor cum property dealer who first tipped the police a year ago. We confirmed that he reported this to several senior police officers and a district commissioner, yet police began serious investigations about a month ago.

Betrayal by police

The 49-year-old man alleges that some of the security agents he turned to for help in August last year when he was unwittingly recruited into the conspiracy by terrorists, betrayed him to the same terrorists.

A senior officer with ATPU who asked not to be named said the surveyor was a "self-declared informant who is peddling lies so that he can be rewarded".

However, police spokesperson, Eric Kiraithe says he ought to be lauded instead of being vilified.

"If one shouts wolf, it’s our responsibility to follow up so as to prevent a catastrophe. There must be some action," he said.

Kihanya (not his real name), the informer, says he blindly joined the alliance of five terrorists by ‘chance’ after he was set by a trusted friend.

It was in July last year when Kihanya’s childhood chum called and arranged to meet him outside a specific building along Nairobi’s Banda Street. He was instructed to stand at a specific place next to the door.

As he waited, a man came hurrying as he talked over the phone and gestured to Kihanya for a pen and a piece of paper.

Kihanya could not help overhearing the stranger talk about surveying. He later told the friendly man that he was a surveyor.

Choreographed meeting

"It was God’s plan that we have met. I have 36 plots in Garissa I want surveyed," the stranger, who later introduced himself as Hussein, told Kihanya. The friend he was waiting for never came.

After negotiations, Hussein said he was ready to pay Sh500,000 for the job.

After subsequent meetings, Kihanya discovered that Hussein was just a linkman as other partners — Ali, Omar and two other Somali’s — took charge.

They explained that they were looking for land at Syokimau next to JKIA.

"They said they would pay whatever price the owner wanted as long as the plot was strategically located at a place they could see planes taking off," Kihanya recalls.

He recalls how they moved with money stashed in cartons placed in the boot of their cars.

The Syokimau area near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where it is alleged terrorists are looking for land. One can clearly see planes taxing and taking off from this point PHOTO: CORRESPONDENT /STANDARD

Kihanya later learnt that four of the men had slipped into Kenya from Somalia. The other man was an Arab.

In July last year, Kihanya says they had promised him Sh10 million reward provided he secured two to 10 acres in Syokimau Scheme just next to JKIA.

"I showed them a five acre parcel which was serviced with power and water. But they said it was too far from the airport," the surveyor recalls.

Thereafter, they identified several other portions of land and instructed Kihanya to go to the Ministry of Lands, search for the owners and approach them to sell him land.

At one point, Kihanya consulted a colleague, Gregory (not his real name) who offered two acres he had been detailed to sell by a client.

Gregory recalls visiting Syokimau in the company of two Somali nationals and a man of Arab descent who were with Kihanya.

"After showing them the plot, they rejected it saying it was too far from the airport," Gregory says.

He recalls how they identified land where they could see planes as they taxied on the runway and hurtled past the control tower.

Kihanya recalls one encounter with the clients that he says made him confirm he was dealing with dangerous people.

On Sunday, August 3, last year, he was urgently summoned to Nairobi to take his clients to view yet another plot in Syokimau.

"On that day, Ali looked very jittery. At a petrol station near Nyayo Stadium roundabout, we picked three passengers. Ali later asked me to drive them past a police roadblock, but I said I had no driving licence," Kihanya recalls.

One of the passengers was a veiled woman who appeared to have been the one in command. She sat on the front passenger’s seat.

At Syokimau, the veiled woman’s gait, body structure and voice betrayed her. Kihanya realised this was a man.

The next day, Kihanya reported to the then Murang’a OCPD, Joseph Kiget about his suspicions.

"Yes I recall Kihanya came to my office and reported his suspicions about his clients. He suspected them to be terrorists," Kiget confirmed to CCI.

Kihanya says Kiget referred him to ATPU officers who kept tossing him from one officer to another.

Two weeks later, the surveyor was cornered by some strangers along Koinange Street in Nairobi.

"We thought you were in pursuit of money. What money do you hope to get from the police? Don’t you know that Al-Qaida is everywhere? By going to the police, you have signed your death warrant," Kihanya recalls being told by one of the Somali nationals.

He says he was then smothered with a moist cloth, and was shocked when he regained consciousness only to find himself in a Prado speeding towards Murang’a.

Shocking experience

Without asking for directions, the men drove right to his home, forced him to open his house and proceeded to ransack all the documents.

They deleted all numbers in his mobile phone and warned him not to transact any business in Nairobi.

After months of confinement, Kihanya gathered courage in March this year and contacted ATPU again.

This is when he learnt that he had been betrayed by some of the security agents who had been assigned to deal with his case.

On May 29, Kihanya says he approached the American Embassy in Nairobi and narrated his encounter to an officer he only identifies as Mike.

He believes that his information led to the abrupt cancellation of the Delta Airline’s maiden flight from Atlanta to Nairobi. When CCI called the US embassy, they could not verify this information.

The US Embassy in Nairobi announced last minute cancellation of the Delta Airline flight on June 2.

"We regret that due to last minute issues that have arisen, Delta Airline Services expected to begin flight in Nairobi on June 3, will be delayed," read a terse note posted on the US embassy website.

After the furore of the cancellation faded off, Kihanya went to Murang’a North District Commissioner George Natembeya seeking protection as he felt his life was in danger.

"Yes it is true the man came to me, I referred him to the Solicitor General’s office because I had no capacity to investigate his story," Natembeya told CCI.

The Solicitor General, Wanjuki Muchemi told CCI that the matter was beyond him as the Witness Protection Programme falls under the Director of Public Prosecution.

And as the Government dithers, Kihanya is on a short leash as he says he has been banned by the terrorists from ever coming to Nairobi.

"These people seem to know every time I visit Nairobi. They bump into me in the most unlikely places and demand to know what I am doing. They have hijacked me twice in Nairobi and raided my home twice. They have pictures of my wife and children. I feel trapped," Kihanya says, fear showing in his face.

And as he continues to suffer for giving information that may save the country from a terrorist attack, the law enforcers continue to dither perhaps giving the terrorists crucial time to complete their evil plans.

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