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Iran role in sponsoring international terror back in spotlight
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 Maina/AFP]
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 Maina/AFP]

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

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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 Police Unit.

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 visas.

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 said.

"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 said.

"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.


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