Osama agents back in Kenya
By Ben Agina
Nine Kenyans who trained under fugitive terrorist Fazul Abdullah were discretely flown back early yesterday (Friday), following months of protracted row with human rights groups.
Accused of acting at the behest of the United States, and suppressing Muslims under the guise of war against terrorism, many other suspects were also brought back from what is now Africa's Guantanamo Bay. It is not clear what the Government's intention is, bringing them back. At the same time, the Government concedes they were trained and dangerous, but still allowing them to melt into the civilian population, even as it insists it is contemplating what to do.
The terror suspects are Swaleh Ali Tunzi, Bashir Hussein Mohammed Sader aka Chirag, Kassim Musa Mwarusi, Ali Musa Mwarusi, Abdalla Khalifan Tondwe, Hassan Shaban Mwasume, Said Hamisi Mohamed aka Star, Salim Awadh Salim and Abdulrashid Mohammed.
They were among those detained without charges in Ethiopia, following an operation last year that secretly transferred terrorism suspects in Kenya and some neighbouring states to Ethiopia for 'screening'.
But the Government insists even the eight linked to the dreaded Al-Qaeda's point man in East Africa suspected to have masterminded the 1997 bomb attack in Nairobi, will remain on the police radar as the next course of action is considered.
"Since none of these individuals offers any plausible reason for taking part in terrorist training in Somalia or indeed for their links with international terrorists, the Government will determine the appropriate action against them,'' read a statement discretely sourced from a key national security unit.
Though released, and flown to Ethiopia for screening and possible transfer to Guantanamo Bay, the notorious US terrorist holding ground in Cuba, their indictment by investigation is unnerving. Apart from confessions of training under the Mujahidin programme in war-torn Somalia, one of them even acceded he chauffeured Fazul, who last month escaped police dragnet in the Coast.
Fazul, a native of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros who is also on the US most-wanted list along with his mentor, Bin Laden, returned in August to seek treatment for a kidney ailment.
The load of suspected terrorists landing home, stirs the painful memories of the 1997 bomb, which uprooted the US embassy, killed at least 250 people, shattered several adjacent buildings, and ushered the country into the realms of global terrorist hot-zones.
The move also rekindles memories of the Kikambala Hotel suicide bomb attack in 2002, and the attempt to bring down an Israeli plane on the Kenyan Coast the same day.
Two names constitute the common denominator in all the terror actions – Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden who is still being sought – and Fazul – who has been on the run from US justice for nine years.
"Investigation revealed these Kenyans had travelled to Somalia in 2006, to get militia training and were recruited into terrorist cells by international terrorists operating in southern Somalia,'' says the security document.
"Indeed, most of them met and worked with such notorious international terrorists as Haroun Fazul (also known as Abdullah and Mohammed), and Saleh Nabhan, the leaders of the Al-Qaeda cell in East Africa,'' it went on.
"He's an extraordinarily dangerous individual," said Dan Coleman, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, who spent years hunting Fazul and his consorts. According to testimony and evidence in the 2001 federal trial East Africa's bomb suspects in the US, Fazul was the base commander of the local terrorist unit. He leased the villa where the conspirators assembled the Nairobi truck bomb — and on the day of the attacks, he drove the pickup as lead vehicle ahead of the truck of explosives.
"He hung around to watch the explosion," reported Coleman. While rescuers ploughed through the rubble for bodies and survivors, he fled to the Comoros.
Human Rights Watch's "Why Am I Still Here?" rendition report for this month, says more than 150 of those arrested, drawn from 18 countries and including women and children, were detained by Kenyan authorities. At least 90 were then taken back to Somalia, where they were handed over to Ethiopian troops and then moved again, to Addis Ababa.
Fazul escaped as police planned a normal search at a house near Saba Saba without knowing it was his hideout.
Security later learnt Fazul escaped through the kitchen of the four-storey building still under construction as the police were trying to break open the ground floor door.
Yesterday, it emerged in order to ascertain the nationalities of the nine Kenyans; the Government dispatched a verification team to Ethiopia comprising immigration and security officers to interview this group a second time. This was because on their arrest at Kiunga, and out of fear or reprisal they claimed they were from Somalia and that is why they were deported.
It is now confirmed that the nine persons were the only Kenyans found in Ethiopian custody. Having verified their status, the Government made arrangements with the Ethiopia authorities for their return to Kenya.
Sixteen other Kenyans were inadvertently caught in a war between Somali Islamic fundamentalists and Ethiopian forces between December 2006 and January last year. This lot was not engaged in any illegal activities.
After police interrogation, they were all assisted to return to their homes in North Eastern, Nairobi and Coast provinces.
The Government also released the names of 70 foreign nationals, who were screened and deported.
But topping the list of those who returned home were Salim Awadh Salim, said to have served as Fazul's personal driver and confidante.
When Ethiopian troops launched a military assault in support of the Transitional Federal Government, Fazul entrusted Awadh with the task of escorting his wife and three children to Kenya. He also took with him the wife and child of Swaleh Nabhan – another notorious international terrorist.
In the run-up to the last General Election President Kibaki established a Presidential Special Action committee to address specific concern of Muslims in regard to alleged harassment.
Although the committee has compiled its report, it is yet to hand it over to the President.
One of the most serious complaints received by the Committee against the Government is the rendition of Kenyan and foreign Muslims suspected of involvement in terrorist activities to foreign jurisdictions.
The committee was informed by the Department of Immigration that it had processed 96 deportation orders of persons who had fled from the Somalia conflict of January - February last year, on the recommendation of the police.
Immigration alleged that the said individuals had failed to co–operate with the arresting agency. Therefore, according to the department, no Kenyan was deported.
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