Kenyan police have arrested two Iranians on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in concert with al-Shabaab, the extremist group based in southern Somalia.
One of the suspects led police to a large cache of chemicals on Friday that officers believe could have been used to make explosives. The material was hidden at a golf club in the port city of Mombasa.
A senior anti-terrorism officer told The Daily Telegraph that the two men "were planning to help al-Shabaab carry out revenge attacks in Kenya because of the Kenya Defence Forces’ incursion inside Somalia". Security sources said the men were suspected of planning attacks in Mombasa or Nairobi.
Last year, Kenya launched a military operation across the border into Somalia to try and crush al-Shabaab, after a wave of kidnappings of foreigners had severely damaged the tourism industry.
Since then, a series of attacks has taken place in Kenyan cities. The latest – a large bomb that exploded in central Nairobi – wounded more than 30 people, one of whom later died.
Police arrested the Iranians on Wednesday in Nairobi, with an official accusing the men of having links to a "wider network of terrorists", including al-Shabaab.
One suspect disclosed 15kg of chemicals in a hiding place at Mombasa Golf Club, a 9-hole course overlooking the Indian Ocean. Police believe this to be an ammonia-based compound and samples have been sent for tests.
"The substance was found on the premises of the Golf Club – not in the building but hidden in a hole under a bush on the course itself," said Ambrose Munyasia, a senior police officer in Coast Province.
The police have not confirmed what charges – if any – the men will face. "Investigations into the Iranian nationals are ongoing and it is likely that they will soon appear in court," said Francis Mwaka, a government spokesman.
In 2006, the United Nations identified Iran as one of seven countries breaking an arms embargo on Somalia by supplying the Islamist militants who then controlled much of the country’s south. A report compiled for the Security Council described three illegal shipments of weapons from Iran, including surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and rocket launchers, although Tehran denied the claims.
Earlier this year, Israel accused Iran of organising attacks on its diplomats in India and Georgia. Tehran denied involvement in the bombings, which injured several people in New Delhi. One day later, an Iranian man was seriously wounded while trying to throw a bomb at police in Thailand’s capital Bangkok.
Experts believe that Iran might seek to retaliate for the assassination of several of its nuclear scientists in Tehran, allegedly by Israel.
Source: Kenyan police arrest Iranians suspected of terror plot – Telegraph – June 22, 2012.