Terror alert issued for Moyale after suspects are arrested with thousands of SIM cards and sophisticated equipment

MOYALE, KENYA: A terror alert has been issued in the twin towns of Moyale that straddles across the Kenya and Ethiopia border.

The move follows an arrest of three Kenyans with alleged links to Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, Al-Shabaab on Thursday.

A joint Kenya and Ethiopian security forces on Thursday made a major breakthrough in Moyale, Kenya after they arrested three people with more than 100,000 simcards from three different countries and secured sophisticated telecommunication gadgets, all traced to the Al-Shabaab terror cell.

The seized gadgets, worth millions of shillings are desktop computers, laptops, modems, cell phones, radio calls, digital cameras and satellite receivers.

Others were hyper media machines, uninterrupted power supply (UPS) machines, studio switch boards, wide-area band network equipment, high voltage dry cell batteries, scanners, antennas and used GSM SIM cards and scratch cards.

"The recovered gadgets are very expensive and we are still tracing the owners. We are baffled to find out more than 100,000 SIM cards and credit cards," Moyale OCPD Thomas Atuti told The Standard in his office.

In recent weeks, revealed Mr Atuti, both towns had poor phone reception adding that the seized gadgets had destabilised communication network along the Kenya-Ethiopia border.

However, what is worrying security personnel in both countries is that the trio, all in their thirties are middle men while the masterminds escaped the dragnet.

Moyale Deputy County Commissioner John Cheruiyot said experts from Nairobi arrived on Sunday to study the recovered gadgets and find out its contents.

At around midday Thursday, joint forces from the two countries that included the military raided an estate near the border and arrested the trio with the gadgets worth millions of shillings.

It was reported that they had all been to Somalia for military training in recent months.

The trio was also arrested with a quarter kilogram of bhang and a container of herbal drug to make shisha concoction.

Marsabit County Commissioner Peter Thuku said preliminary investigation showed that the trio had come back from Somalia adding that they were in the border town to target both Kenya and Ethiopia who are part of the Africa Union forces restoring order in the war torn country.

The trio said Mr Thuku had rented 12 singles rooms in different parts of the town for some months, all located near the border where they had planned to carry out terror attacks.

The estate is next to the Kenya Postal Corporation and Custom buildings.

Mr Thuku said Moyale has been placed on alert adding that both Kenya and Ethiopian security personnel are tracking down on suspects who escaped.

''We are on high alert and have put measures in place to ensure that there are no terror-related attacks in the area,'' said the administrator.

According to initial probe, the trio had come to the town and opened small business like kiosk but were spending big and do not interact with locals, a scenario that finally led to the raid.

''The initial investigation shows that these people had come from a training field in Somalia and were here (Moyale) to carry out their terror attack on Kenya,'' said Thuku.

The suspects spent their night in Moyale police station cell under heavy guard and were expected to be transferred to Nairobi.

Thuku identified the arrested  as Mohammed Abdi with ID issued from Wajir but does not speak both English and Kiswahili, and converts Paul Macharia and Boniface Githiu (both from Central Kenya).

''Terrorists have no tribe, faith or colour as we saw today. Our initial investigation show that all of them were just back from Somalia,'' said the administrator.

He said the County government in Marsabit had identified that it's also a target by the Al-Shabaab adding that the security committee is working closely with Ethiopia to tame the militiamen.