Sayed Mansour (centre) and Ahmad Mohammed (right), both Iranian
nationals, are handcuffed moments after being sentenced May 6th in
Nairobi to life in prison on terror-related charges, including
possessing explosives allegedly for use in bomb attacks. [Simon
Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Since a Kenyan court sentenced two Iranians to life in prison on
terrorism-related charges recently, Iran's role in sponsoring terror
acts outside its borders returned to the spotlight.
According to a Kenyan court ruling, Ahmed Mohammed, 50, and Sayed
Mansour, 51, both Iranian nationals, were attempting to stage a terror
attack in the country. The two men were arrested in June 2012 outside
the Laico Regency, a five-star Libyan-owned hotel in central Nairobi,
after eight days of intensive surveillance by the Kenyan Anti-Terror
On May 2nd, they were convicted of possessing 15 kilograms of the
powerful explosive RDX, which police found buried at a golf course. The
Nairobi court said Mohammed and Mansour had suspected links to a terror
network planning bombings in Mombasa and Nairobi. Both men have
consistently denied the charges.
But Kenyan police stand by their decision to arrest and prosecute the two Iranians.
Police spokesman Charles Owino told Sabahi Online that police did not
frame the men, nor did arresting officers act on instructions from any
foreign government when they jailed them.
"Kenya police carried out comprehensive surveillance on the duo, thus
preventing a serious terrorism crime from happening in the country,"
Owino said. "I am happy we were alert and that we eventually
successfully prosecuted this case."
After Mohammed and Mansour were sentenced to life in prison on May
6th, local and international media reported that the two Iranians were
operatives of the elite Quds Force, a covert unit of Iran's Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corp that handles operations abroad.
Iranian Ambassador to Kenya Malik Hussein Givzad denied the
allegation, saying his two countrymen were tourists in Kenya with valid
On the day of the sentencing, Givzad told Kenya's Daily Nation that
Iran has cordial business relations with Kenya and that the conviction
of Mohammed and Mansour would not lead to diplomatic ties being cut.
"This was a judicial process, which we respect," Givzad said, adding that Iran would help the two men appeal the ruling.
'Kenya should press for answers'
Not everyone is as optimistic about the future of diplomatic relations between Kenya and Iran.
"The government of president Uhuru Kenyatta should be bold and sever
this dangerous diplomatic relationship with Tehran if it has adequate
intelligence evidence that the arrested Iranian duo actually are secret
service agents of the Iranian Republican Guards, as the Kenyan
Anti-Terrorism Police and National Security Intelligence has been
alleging," said Ignacious Kamau Njoroge, a 67-year-old retired
intelligence officer of the Kenyan army and director of the
Nairobi-based Global Eye Spies & General Investigations.
Njoroge said Kenya should recall its ambassador to Iran and send a
letter of protest to both the Iranian government and the United Nations
because of the magnitude of the allegations and the potential
catastrophe had the bombing occurred.
"And, because the sentenced Iranians blatantly refused to collaborate
with Kenyan prosecutors and interrogators as the prosecutor narrated to
the court, Kenya should press for answers from Iran, otherwise we shall
conclude that these two had sworn secrecy with their government to
forever remain silent to protect their identity and the interest of
their motherland," Njoroge said.
The Kenyan government should also look into how almost 15 kilograms
of highly explosive materials entered the country undetected, Njoroge
"The government should leave no stone unturned to find out from the
Iranian government how its two nationals acquired the bomb making
material, what exactly are their credentials and which installations
they were targeting," he said.
Kenya not a playground for 'Iranian revenge missions'
Robert Kamau, an international relations and diplomacy lecturer at
the University of Nairobi, said Kenyatta should seize this opportunity
while the international community is watching.
"President Kenyatta […] should seize this moment and send a very
strong message that Iran is a major threat to global peace and security
and that Kenya would not condone any such acts on its territory," he
told Sabahi. "This is precisely the reason [Kenya] sacrificed its
soldiers and resources to fight al-Shabaab from deep in Somalia."
"I am sure the Iranian presence and activity in Kenya goes beyond the
legitimate economic, political, social and cultural spheres," Kamau
"But Kenya, as a peace loving country should resist being the playground for Iranian revenge missions abroad," he said.
Njoroge said proper intelligence gathering would likely reveal that
the intended attack on Kenya fits well into the Iranian style of
terrorism. On February 13, 2012, Iranian bombers struck Israeli embassy
personnel in the capitals of India and Georgia, and one day later
planned to carry out similar attacks in Thailand and Azerbaijan but the
plans were foiled. As part of its standard modus operandi, the
government denied responsibility of those attacks as well, said Njoroge.