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Kenyan anti-terrorism team on high alert
Nairobi, Kenya, 4 May 2008 - Kenyan anti-terrorism officials are on high alert following the killing of an Islamist said to be the Al Qaeda leader in Somalia in a US attack on Thursday, the Sunday Nation has learnt.
There are fears that the Al Qaeda cells in Somalia plan to retaliate the killing by staging attacks on American interests in Kenya, said an anti-terrorism officer familiar with the details of the plan but who could not be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press.
The Thursday missile strike by US warplanes is also reported to have killed as many as 30 other people in what Washington’s described as the biggest blow against an insurgency raging since 2007.
The strike was reported to have hit the home of Aden Hashi Ayro, the military head of Al-Shabab, which controls much of Somalia. The dawn strike in the central town of Dusamareb is said to have been made during a meeting of Al-Shabab commanders.
A Kenyan anti-terrorism official familiar with the Thursday strike told the Sunday Nation that the operation succeeded after some members of the Al-Shabab fell out and passed information to the Americans.
Kenya and the U.S. share anti-terrorism Intelligence especially after the August 7, 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi and the Kikambala Hotel in November 2002. Their joint efforts have led to successful operations in containing Al Qaeda cells in Somalia.
The US who classified the group as a one of the terrorist units of the Al Qaeda in Africa claims to have trailed Ayro for several weeks. Ayro was among six Al Qaeda operatives or associates that Washington have been saying are in the Horn of Africa nation.
According to the Kenyan officials, the anti-terrorism unit is concerned that the group may launch revenge attacks directed on Kenya following the killing of their leader. This, the officials said, have led to the beefing up of security along the Kenya-Somalia border.
Two Kenyans and two Britons were killed in Somalia in mid-April when Islamist insurgents made an overnight raid on a school in central Somalia. Reports from Somalia indicate that Al Shabab spokesperson, Mukhtar Ali Robow, held a press conference over the phone with local radio stations in which he vowed that they would retaliate.
The move by the Kenya security forces comes only days after the US said in a global counter-terrorism survey released on Wednesday that the country lacks laws needed to wage an effective war on terrorism.
The report, however, also applauded Kenya’s response to the upheaval in Somalia after the Ethiopian invasion in 2006. It noted that the Ministry of Defence’s efforts largely prevented the flight of violent extremists across the Somalia-Kenya border.
Ayro, reportedly in his 30s, was the target of another air strike last year that US officials believe wounded the Al-Shaabab leader. He is also said to have led Al Shabab militants blamed for attacks on government troops and their Ethiopian allies last year.
Source: Sunday Nation