Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Who tipped off Fazul Abdulla Mohammed?

By having some officers on his payroll, the terrorist who masterminded the August 7, 1998 Nairobi bombing that claimed more than 200 lives has beat the police dragnet four times in the past 10 years. Police are now conducting internal investigation after Fazul last week escaped detectives by a whisker in Malindi where he was holed up after sneaking into the country from Somalia. Sources in the police force have intimated that investigations have been launched to ascertain whether the person who helped Fazul was a police officer.

Fazul is believed to have compromised key officers who keep him informed about the movements and strategies of their colleagues on his trail. "We are not safe-talking to you people (journalists). Our phones have been tapped and our seniors are monitoring us. They believe one of us must have tipped off Fazul through one of his aides," said a detective from the anti-terror unit.

He went on: "Most of us have been questioned. We also believe that some of us could actually be in the Fazul network, making it difficult to capture him and making it easy for the fugitive to come in and out of the country as he pleases," said the source. Senior police sources revealed that the suspected police informer might have acted an hour before detectives’ raid at Casuarina, Malindi. But Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe would not comment over the concerns, saying they were "in-house matters which would be handled internally".

The concerns were raised on a day the American government was said to be raising misgivings about Kenya’s ability to capture Fazul and prevent terrorism attacks in future. According to another source at the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) and CID, the US government was losing faith in the Kenyan police’s ability to capture Fazul and his close associates, or even deal accordingly with arrested terrorism suspects.

A senior officer at the NSIS said the FBI now wants to take over the hunt for Fazul in Coast Province — an exercise that has taken the anti-terrorism unit and the CID more than two weeks without success. The request by FBI and the doubt on the Kenyan police ability, our source said, was causing disquiet between the two governments. Another police source confirmed that FBI agents were already on the ground conducting a parallel hunt for Fazul. "Officials of FBI have been spotted in various offices and have been doing discreet rounds in Coast Province," he said. "From available correspondence, their (FBI’s) argument is that Kenya has no effective laws on terrorism, mechanisms and resources to capture Fazul and his close associates." The FBI is reportedly insisting that the Ministry of Internal Security has no capacity — in resources and personnel — to deal with terrorism.

However, Coast CID chief Benard Mate declined to comment on the competence of the Kenyan police, but was convinced that the officers would finally catch up with the terrorist if he were in Kenya. "We will capture him if he is still on Kenyan soil. We shall get him dead or alive. People can make their own assertions, but we believe we are capable of getting the suspect," said Mate. The hunt for Fazul focuses on three districts —Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu.

Anti-terror unit chief Nicholas Kamwende and his team have been at the Coast for the second week. Undercover officers remained on high alert with fresh orders from Nairobi being that Fazul was dangerous, always carried explosives and should be shot on sight. "The orders are that he should be shot on sight. But, again, it is a tricky affair because how do you know for certain that it is Fazul yet the pictures in use were taken a long time ago?" asked an officer in the anti-terrorism unit.

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