July 3rd, 2012
11:59 AM ET

Kenyans accuse Iranian suspects of planning terror attacks

By David McKenzie, reporting from Nairobi, Kenya

Two Iranian nationals, accused of plotting to plant explosives in Kenya, were in the advanced stages of planning of a terror attack in Kenya, according to a senior Kenyan government official familiar with intelligence updates.

"We do not want to speculate exactly on the seriousness of their plan," the official said, adding the suspects may have wanted to use Kenya as a transit point to hit targets in neighboring countries. "We are still working to uncover it. We don't allow organizations or countries to commit terror in our country, and we will prosecute such acts accordingly."

The suspects were arrested June 19 in Nairobi and led security officials to 15 kilograms (more than 30 pounds) of RDX explosives hidden at a Mombasa golf club, on Kenya's coast, according to court documents.

"The amount of explosives they uncovered was very powerful and could have caused a lot of damage and loss of life if used," the official said.

The two Iranian suspects, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, appeared in a Nairobi court June 25 charged with two counts: preparation to commit a felony and being in possession of explosives without a license.

According to court transcripts seen by CNN, both Mohammed and Mousavi denied the charges and said they were wrongly accused. They also alleged Kenyan police had tortured them.

Mohammed said he was given an injection by a Kenyan intelligence agent. The presiding magistrate said the matter would be investigated and denied the pair bail, ruling they would be a flight risk.

The Iranians' attorney, David Kirimi, declined to comment, saying he wished to consult with his clients.

If proven guilty, the case could be linked, security analysts said, to a series of plots and attacks, allegedly by Iranian operatives, targeting Israeli diplomats.

The Israeli prime minister's office reacted swiftly to the latest allegations in Kenya.

"Iranian terror has no borders. ... Now its intention to execute terror attacks in Africa is being revealed. The international community must fight against the world's biggest exporter of terror."

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman hit back Tuesday, saying officials are trying to establish the identity of the two men.

"When it comes to Iranian nationals, coverage of the events are exaggerated," said the spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, in Tehran.

The arrests of the Iranians and discovery of explosives came in the midst of a U.S. Embassy warning of an "imminent threat" of terror attacks in Mombasa, with the embassy taking the unusual step of suspending U.S. government travel to the coastal city until the end of July.

It was the latest in a string of warnings to U.S. citizens in Kenya.

But security analysts and evidence from recent incidents suggest that the major terror threat to Kenya may be from Somalia, not Iran.

A series of low-grade grenade attacks, blamed on sympathizers of Al-Shabaab, culminated in simultaneous attacks Sunday by masked gunmen on two churches in Garissa, Kenya.

The gunmen lobbed grenades into Catholic and African Inland churches and then opened fire on the parishioners in the ensuing panic, according to Kenyan police. Seventeen people were killed, and more than 40 injured. No one has claimed responsibility, but Kenyan police said they suspect Al-Shabaab.

While Al-Shabaab has been linked to al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, experts said they believe there is little chance they would align themselves with Iranians.

"Iranian operatives have had little involvement with East and Horn of Africa militant groups," said Rashid Abdi, a Somali terror expert and religion editor at Nation Group, "and mostly Sunni Somalis would regard Iranians Shiites with mistrust.

"But stranger things have happened," he added.

The terror allegations come at an awkward moment in economic relations between Kenya and Iran.

Kenya has agreed to import 4 million tons of Iranian oil per year, signing a memorandum of understanding with Tehran in June, CNN affiliate KTN reported, citing statements from Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary Patrick Nyoike.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman alleged that Kenyan-Iranian relationships were being deliberately sabotaged.

"Making public this incident coincides with positive economic moves between the two countries," Mehmanparast said. "We are suspicious of the motives behind the publicizing of this kind of news about Iranian nationals in countries where we have close and friendly relations."

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Filed under: Africa • Iran • Israel • Nigeria • Terrorism
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  19. Matt

    I don't think they need to bother too much about Africa. North Africa was always going to open up as a new front of terror, with al-Qaida and linked groups. Slowly all of Africa is falling to radical Islamists.

    July 4, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply

    well we also have a kenyan that accuses iran of terror actions but this kenyan is very weak although he sits in the most powerful office in world history.

    July 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  21. Albuquerque, Turkey

    You tried to hurt Obama's home country? Its on now!

    July 4, 2012 at 3:03 am | Reply
  22. JUsticForAll

    Iran is losing Syria and Hezbolla in Lebanon cannot be far behind. Iran must be the most Isolated country in the world. Minorities in Iran as a whole exceed Persian Iranians. Iran end is near. The end is accelerating with the religious nuts who have turned that country 500 hundred years backwards. What losers!

    July 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Reply
    • Cyrus

      The Israelis are the religious extremists you need to be wary of.

      They already have nukes, and have threatened to use them.

      July 3, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Reply
      • JUsticForAll

        They have never even admitted that they have them hence they never threatened anyone with something they do not admit to have. In fact all their statements are that they will not be the first introduce them in the middle east. Your statement is an invention that I hear from brainwashed Muslims not from objective observers.

        July 4, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  23. Travis

    Why would the Iranians want to try terrorist attacks in Kenya? There's something fishy here as this story doesn't even hold water. I bet that this just more Western propaganda!

    July 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
    • JUsticForAll

      You apparently have not heard about Thailand, India and other places that have caught Iranian agents for the same thing. They have sent out Iranians to do terrorism against other countries. They had done and are doing the same in Iraq.

      July 4, 2012 at 2:06 am | Reply
      • fard

        9/11 was inside job by usa intelligence i think it is easy for mosad and cia to do such bombing and blame iran.iran donot want any war why should they they are growing in scientific research medical science agricultary they are independent..i dont think the blood of innocent afghans iraqis and palestainain will go in vain they have to pay for it sooner or latter.

        July 5, 2012 at 4:31 am |
      • michaelfury


        July 5, 2012 at 10:17 am |
      • Justicefroall

        Obviously you do not understand the fact that democracies are full of leaks and if that was true the many reputable liberal journalists would be all over it. You sound like a brainwashed individual something I see mostly in the Muslim communities.
        That is why all Islamic countries are so pathetic. They lie to each other all the time. Hence true advancement cannot occur.

        July 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

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