Kenyan police on Wednesday vowed to intensify fight against terrorism and warned criminal groups with any form of affiliation to terrorist groups that they will not be spared.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet admitted that Kenya remains under serious threat due to its proximity with Somalia which has remained unstable for more than two decades.
“Its instability has provided a rich ground for terrorism as evidenced by the presence of international terror cells of ISII, Al-Qaeda and its local offshoots in Al-Shabab,” he told journalists in Nairobi.
He said that despite security officers remaining resolute in keeping the country safe from terror-threats emanating both within and outside the country, there have, however, been some isolated incidents of improvised explosive devices which Kenya has witnessed in the recent past along the Somalia border.
Boinnet said joint efforts between the police and other security agencies have disrupted numerous potentially devastating terror plots targeting Kenya in the past three years.
He said three terror suspects who were arrested by the police from their hideout while in Isiolo on Feb. 15 were planning to bomb judicial buildings and a government office.
Boinnet who cited intelligence reports said the suspects were part of a cell that was planning to stage a major terror attack in Nairobi.
“These terrorists were targeting a government building and we suspect they planned to attack a judicial building probably to rescue people being prosecuted for terror offences,” he told journalists.
One of the terror suspects, Mbarak Abdi Huka, was killed while two of his accomplices were arrested after engaging security officers in a gun battle at their hideout in Merti, Isiolo County in eastern Kenya.
The high value suspect they planned to free, Boinnet said, is Muslim cleric Sheikh Guyo Gorsa who is currently in custody over various terror related charges.
He said they have enhanced security operations in the country disrupting several terror cells and plans.
The police chief spoke of the incident for the first time since police seized an arsenal of explosives on the way from Marsabit to Nairobi, displayed the recovered items which he said would have caused maximum damage in a radius of 250 meters.
Some 1,199 bullets, 36 unprimed hand grenades, 18 IEDs and five AK 47 rifles were recovered from an SUV and four other suspects are in custody from the sting operation on Feb. 15.
There were also three military knives in the vehicle that the terrorists planned to use in their attacks.
Police also recovered several Simcards and mobile phones, a black flag and other paraphernalia associated with Al-Shabaab militia groups, motorcycle registration number KMEE 180R and ignition keys from the suspects.
Boinnet further said that in the vehicle the three were using, police found 80 kg of high grade explosives.
“Were they to succeed it would have had an impact up to 200 meters. In our assessment, their objective was to create fear and panic, attract attention about their cause, shutter our social standing, discourage investment and hopefully influence government decisions on safeguarding the country,” added Boinnet.
He said the terrorists had bought the Mitsubishi SUV from a Nairobi yard and drove it to Somalia where it was fitted with the explosives ready for explosion.
Police raided a Nairobi hotel near the University of Nairobi where the suspects had booked and spent almost a week while planning their attack.
They had also booked another house in a residential estate on the outskirts of Nairobi for their plans, said Boinnet.
“The vehicle was bought in Nairobi and taken to Somalia to be fitted with the explosives ready for their mission. They would have caused much destruction and deaths,” he said.
The recovery was described as a milestone in anti-terror operations in the country.
It is the second such recovery after that of 2014 in Mombasa where another Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) were seized from a suspect who had arrived from Somalia ready to detonate. The suspects targeted the ferry then.