Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kenya on alert over militia scare

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Muslims with a mask carry a flag during a demonstration at Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque on January 15. Picture: File

The East African

Kenyan security agencies are concerned about reports that increasing numbers of Al-Shabaab militants are entering the country.

Last week, police arrested over 2,000 people in a swoop on illegal foreigners from Somalia, an undisclosed number of whom are believed to be members of the Somali Islamist militia.

The move came after claims from top government officials that Al-Shabaab elements or their sympathisers took part in the January 15 demonstrations in Nairobi in which Muslim youth clashed with the police over the planned deportation of Jamaican preacher Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal.

While Internal Security Minister, Prof George Saitoti has categorically stated that Al-Shabaab sympathisers took part in the demonstration, his Immigration counterpart Otieno Kajwang’ said the government was still unsure because all manner of people from Somalia are crossing into Kenya through its porous borders.

Prof Saitoti also announced that security agencies had foiled several terror attacks, but was not clear whether these threats came from Al-Shabaab or other terror groups.

Sources in Mogadishu said while many Al-Shabaab youth have entered Kenya, some were being sent by their parents to avoid being forcibly recruited into the militia group or being forced into marriage to Al-Shabaab members. The Immigration Ministry is registering those who cross over to Kenya and deporting those without proper documents.

But there are questions over whether the government swoop was directed at the right targets. Sources said there are two hotels in Nairobi’s eastern suburb of Eastleigh where Al-Shabaab sympathisers hold meetings, but these were not raided.

Instead, the police raided areas inhabited mostly by either Transitional Federal Government MPs or refugees who have fled from Al-Shabaab.

For instance, Barakat Hotel, where the Somali MPs are known to reside whenever they are visiting Kenya was raided and over a dozen of them arrested. Among those arrested was Major Muhammed Mur Galal, a former military officer in the Siad Barre government who is the brainchild behind the As Sunnah Al Jamaah, a militia group that has been fighting alongside the TFG against al-Shabaab.

As Sunnah Al Jamaah took up arms against al-Shabaab in late 2008 to protect the country’s long-held Sufi traditions and moderate religious views.

Also arrested was a former foreign minister, Ismail Mohammed, who is on the Al-Shabaab wanted list for allegedly organising the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia towards the end of 2006.

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