Police in Bomet have intercepted a huge cache of explosives and detonators they believe were in transit to Nairobi for a possible terror attack.
The Friday night seizure comprised 1,750 kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate and 50 detonators intercepted on the Narok-Bomet highway during an operation conducted by officers from various security agencies.
According to Bomet police commander Naomi Ichami, the lorry was intercepted at a police roadblock in Kyogong’ a few kilometres from Bomet town.
Police arrested Joseph Wang’ombe, 37, the driver of the lorry during the operation and locked him up at the Bomet Police Station awaiting to be charged in court on Monday.
The lorry belonged to Nitro Chemicals Company Ltd whose owners are persons of interest to the police. The lorry is also being detained at the same police station.
“An Isuzu lorry registration number KBT 779Y, belonging to Nitro Chemicals Company Ltd was nabbed at Kyogong area on the Narok-Bomet highway on Friday night during an operation to rid the region of criminals and petty offenders,” said Ms Ichami.
It is suspected that the explosives were on transit from western Kenya to Nairobi for use in a terror attack.
The driver, who was the sole occupant in the lorry, did not resist arrest, according to Ms Ichami.
The seizure, the biggest in recent times, comes a week after a terror suspect – Adan Galhai, alias Urisha Galhai, 22 – was arrested as he attempted to gain entry to the Narok stadium where President Uhuru Kenyatta was leading tens of thousands of Kenyans during Madaraka Day celebrations.
Military officers had arrested the suspect a day before the celebrations but he escaped while being interrogated but was seized again as he attempted to gain access to the stadium and handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU).
Police conducted the Friday night operation following a sharp rise in cases of car robberies, burglaries and petty crimes.
Police spokesman Charles Owino said security officers had foiled a number of attacks in various stages of planning and execution as a result of intelligence information gathered by various arms of government.
“Acting on information from members of the public to various arms of government, security officers have nipped in the bud planned attacks in the country. We have made a lot of progress in dealing with terror attacks,” he said Saturday.
“We are on track and Kenyans should not be worried about the cases.
“Security officers are vigilant and we urge Kenyans to continue volunteering information on the issues.”
Mr Owino, who was flanked by regional police bosses Ichami, Aden Yunis (Narok) and James Mugera (Kericho), was speaking at Bomet University College during a meeting with sub-county and ward commanders in the three counties.
“There is a need for the police to conduct thorough checks on lorries and small vehicles involved in transportation of goods to ensure that terrorists are not using the local routes to transport explosives for use in criminal activities, especially mass murder,” said Mr Leonard Langat, the chairman of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bomet branch.
This was not the first time police were recovering explosives.
On January 15, police recovered one explosive at the dusitD2 hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, following a terror attack left 21 people dead and hundreds of others injured.
Police are looking for Violet Kemunto Omwoyo, a Kenyan said to have been one of the masterminds of the attack while several other suspects have been arrested and their cases are pending in court.
Abdi Ali Kanchora, Boru Abdi Bidu and Ramadhan Wario Bonaya (alias Rasho) are some of the terror suspects who have surrendered to the police after the dusitD2 attack with tens of others under police watch.
On July 24, 2013, officers from Central Police Station recovered explosives that were found in a Chania bus at the TSS Petrol Station on River Road in Nairobi.
In June 2012, police retrieved a paper bag whose contents bomb experts confirmed to be explosive materials in Kawangware, Nairobi.
Detectives said three suspects dropped the flour-like substance before fleeing the area when they saw police on patrol approaching.
A month later, police impounded explosive materials consisting of nitrate fertiliser and detonators at a Vihiga farm.
District Criminal Investigation officer Boaz Obetto said a resident found the materials were in a deserted farm.
Also recovered were 90 boosters used to maximise the effects of an explosion.
Mr Obetto said some of the materials recovered are used in quarries to blow up stones.
He said the preliminary analysis reports by bomb experts are drawn from Kisumu noted that the substances were to be used for assembling a bomb.
“These are high-calibre explosives. They are capable of generating a lot of force, which a quarry cannot,” he said then.
An attack on Westgate shopping mall in 2013 left 67 dead, while another one on the University of Garissa in 2015 left 148 people dead.
On August 7, 1998, 213 people died following a terror attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi while another 11 people died in a similar attack in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
More than 5,000 people were injured in the co-ordinated attacks.
The attacks were mainly planned from Somalia by the Al-Shabaab terror group, which has claimed responsibility in most of the incidents.
The group is affiliated to Al-Qaeda, which has also claimed responsibility for major hits in various parts of the world.
The arrest also comes two days after Bomet County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding and Benson Keiywo, a director at National Counter Terrorism Unit urged residents to be on high alert.
“We are appealing to the residents of the South Rift region to guard against infiltration by terror suspects who are seeking to radicalise youths and train them to undertake terrorist attacks within and outside Kenya,” said Mr Omoding on Thursday while closing an anti-terrorism workshop.
Last month, 33 police officers and prosecutors drawn from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions graduated from a 10-week course on interrogations, digital evidence collection, documentation, crime scene investigations, and rule of law facilitated by America’s Federal Bureau of Investigations.