Hunt For Al Qaeda Cells Intensifies in East Africa

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Kenyan authorities have intensified cross-border security and a nationwide terrorism clampdown after receiving new evidence of active terror cells in the region.

Officials here said evidence has emerged that terrorists are planning new attacks against key installations in Kenya, among them one of the capital's best-known buildings, the 32-story Kenyatta International Conference Center.

Four foreigners were arrested last week while filming the building. Earlier the same men had expressed an interest in the center's underground parking basement.

Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka said key terrorists involved in planning the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the November 2002 bomb attack at an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombassa were believed to be still in the country.

"Kenya is vigorously pursuing them, with security agents intensifying the search for Kenyan al-Qaeda collaborators," he said.

The terrorist suspects are a part of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, he said.

"The terrorists have not gone to sleep," warned National Security Minister Dr. Chris Murungaru.

He said the new government would soon introduce new anti-terrorism legislation and commit more resources to the battle.

Kenyan police, working with American and Israel security agents, have in the past month made significant arrests, key among them being that of Suleiman Abdalla, a 30-year-old who uses the alias Chuck Norris.

Abdalla, a Somali businessman, was arrested in Mogadishu and extradited last Wednesday to the U.S., where he is expected to stand trial for his alleged role in the 1998 and 2002 attacks.

Government officials said Abdalla had confessed to participating in the attacks.

"He was one of the ones being sought by the American security agents and Kenyan security agents, and I am sure his capture is a welcome development for the Americans," Murungaru told reporters in Nairobi earlier.

In the car bomb attack on the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel, 15 people were killed.

More than 220 died in the twin embassy bombings in 1998. In 2001, a court in New York found four people guilty of carrying out the embassy attacks.

In further developments, Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit has arrested three U.S-trained Kenyan pilots in Mombassa on suspicion of involvement in the hotel blast.

According to officials cited in published reports, brothers Khalad Hashim Ali Jeneby and Ali Hashil Jeneby and a cousin, Mbaruk Adham Batsy, trained as pilots in Florida in the late 1990s, before returning home in 2000.

The anti-terror clampdown has also netted four Kenyan police officers after it emerged that the Mombassa attack suspects had been arrested months before the attack, but were released under suspicious circumstances.

Confirming the arrests, security minister Murungaru linked the move to "the manner in which the officers carried out their duties, contrary to the force standing orders."

Police sources said the officers allegedly accepted large bribes to let the suspects go.

The latest arrests come in the wake of updated travel advice by the U.S. and Britain, warning citizens about the risk of attacks in East Africa by al Qaeda members or sympathizers.

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