two suspected Al-Shabaab militants were on Saturday arrested by security forces in the vicinity of Eldoret town, over 400 kilometers West of Nairobi, which is one of the unique incidents that also showcases alertness of police officers in the East Africa nation.
According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations [DCI], police officers attached to the Anti-Terror Police Unit [ATPU] and Special Services Unit [SSU], arrested the two after conducting an operation in Kapseret area, which is situated around 5 kilometers from Eldoret, Kenya’s commercial and agricultural center.
The suspects were identified as Mohamed Ahmed Bisher, 59 and Nasanga Ibrahim, 69. The duo had been assembling explosives at Chapkatet village in Kapseret Sub County before they were arrested by detectives, the DCI added.
“Two terror suspects have today been arrested by a combined team of detectives drawn from DCI_Kenya Anti-Terrorism Police Unit [ATPU] and The Special Services Unit [SSU],” the DCI team said in a tweet on Saturday.
“The Sleuths carried the operation within Chepkatet village, in Kapsaret Sub-County, Uasin Gishu County where Mohamed Ahmed Bisher aged 59 years and a foreign national by the name Nasanga Ibrahim aged 68 years were arrested,” added the DCI team.
Several assorted explosives were nabbed during the crackdown along with detonators, detonating cords, safety fuses, and boosters, which are believed to have been materials being assembled for a possible attack within Eldoret town, police said.
The two suspects are now being held in Eldoret Central Police station for further interrogation, police added. Although they are of Somali origin, they are believed to have been staying in the Western Kenya town for many years and even established wide networks, residents said.
“Assorted explosives, detonators, detonating cords, safety fuses and boosters were also recovered during the operation. The suspects are in lawful custody as further investigations continue,” the DCI added in a tweet.
The incident is likely to trigger police crackdown across Uasin Gishu County and even raise insecurity concerns because it is the first time an incident of such a magnitude was reported, despite the fact that Kenya has often struggled to contain terrorism.
Police will establish if the two have ties with Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants, but sources within the security forces have already linked them to the group. And now, the officers will only try to press them to explain the motives behind the assembling of the explosives.
“We have established that they are communicating with some people in Somalia and obviously, this means they have connections with Al-Shabaab. We now want to know their target and who coordinated their activities, whether or not they’ve been recruiting locals,” a detective told Garowe Online in confidence.
Eldoret town is one of the safest urban centers in Kenya and has never recorded a terrorism incident just like many towns within the Western belt of Kenya. However, reports emerged last year that Al-Shabaab was recruiting people from Western Kenya by smuggling them through Tanzania across the Isibania border.
Al-Shabaab militants have often targeted the capital, Nairobi, and Northern Frontier Districts [NFD] in their exploits in Kenya. The NFD regions include Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties and the three have recorded highest incidents of terror attacks since January this year.
Further, Al-Shabaab has been targeting Mombasa, Tana River and Lamu counties within Kenya’s coastal strip. It is in Lamu where the militants waged at attack against a US Naval Base in Manda Airfield, killing three Americans in January this year.
So perilous was the attack that the US deployed elite forces to Kenya which was followed by the tour of US Africa Command boss Gen. Stephen Townsend in February. The American forces managed to kill Bashir Qorgab, an Al-Shabaab terrorist believed to have planned the attack from Somalia.
However, Eldoret’s incident showcases the fragility of rural Kenya where the Al-Shabaab militants could be recruiting youths without the knowledge of the government. For instance, last year’s attack at Dusit D2 Hotel in Nairobi was linked to slain terrorist Salim Gichunge, who grew up in rural Nyeri and Isiolo in Upper Eastern.
Kenya is playing an integral role in rebuilding Somalia, a country that has struggled with inter-clan conflicts, internal political feuds, and Al-Shabaab menace. The Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] mans sections of Jubaland and is credited for liberating many towns among them the seaport of Kismayo.