US Vice President Mike Pence Saturday claimed the late Qasem Soleimani, the head of Quds Force – the elite part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — was a terrorist who plotted attacks including in Kenya, even as millions in the Middle east mourned the fallen commander as a hero.
“(Soleimani) directed IRGC QF terrorist plots to bomb innocent civilians in Turkey and Kenya in 2011,” the US VP tweeted yesterday.
US President Donald Trump announced that the US killed Soleimani “to stop a war, not to start one”.
Although Mr Pence did not specify the attacks that General Soleimani plotted in Kenya, the country witnessed a series of terror attacks in 2011 which culminated in the incursion of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) into Somalia in October 2011.
However, the 2011 attacks in Kenya looked too unsophisticated to involve the organisational strength and capabilities of the Quds Force, which is renowned for carrying out complex attacks.
However, there was the confirmed presence of men from the Quds Forces after the arrest of Iranian nationals Sayed Mansour Mousavi and Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed who were accused of plotting a terror attack in Kenya.
The killing on Soleimani on Friday in a drone strike was immediately followed by the beefing-up of US and Israeli installations around the world.
In Kenya, security was strengthened at various hotels and buildings frequented by Americans and Israelis, who could be easy targets in case of retaliatory attacks.
A contingent of GSU officers kept guard at the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi, which is associated with the Israelis.
The officers also patrolled a popular resting place famously known as Hustlers’ Corner which stretches from Mama Ngina street to Moi Avenue and City Hall Way.
No citizen was allowed to relax or stand there.
Hustlers’ Corner is a public rest space set aside by City Hall.
Since Friday, Kenyan officials have remained mum about the killing, with the Foreign Affairs ministry amplifying the silence.
Saturday, the Communist Party of Kenya condemned the killing and accused the US government of eliminating General Soleimani because it feared his growing influence in the Middle East.
“Soleimani and the IRGC played and continued to play the most crucial role in neutralising al-Qaeda, IS and other terrorist formations in the Middle East.
“An enigmatic general who led from the frontlines, Soleimani was an active supporter of the Palestinian freedom cause,” Mr Benedict Wachira, the Secretary General of the party, said.
Mr Wachira added that Soleimani “was an ardent anti-imperialist who gave the United States and its stooges sleepless nights both in terms of ideas, and more, at the battlefronts that they prompted.”
Mr Soleimani was the most powerful military figure across the Middle East with General David Petraeus, a retired US forces commander, describing him in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine as the “architect” of Iran’s attempts to take over an area of the Middle East known as the Shiite Crescent, which stretches from Iran to Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon.
He mobilised militias across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon including in the war against the Islamic State group and also organised attacks on US troops and American allies going back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“… Suleimani has orchestrated attacks in places as far-flung as Thailand, New Delhi, Lagos, and Nairobi – at least 30 attempts in the past two years alone.
“The most notorious was a scheme in 2011 to hire a Mexican drug cartel to blow up the Saudi ambassador to the United States as he sat down to eat at a restaurant a few miles from the White House,” the New Yorker magazine wrote about him in an article published in 2013.
Before the Somalia incursion, al-Shabaab militants abducted Marie Dedieu, a 66-year-old French woman with disability, from her home near Manda Island in Lamu County. Two weeks later the militants kidnapped two female Spanish Médecins sans Frontières aid workers from Dadaab refugee camp and took them to Somalia.
Some of the attacks included hurling a grenade at a bar known as Mwaura’s on Nairobi’s Mfangano Street and another at Travellers Inn at the Machakos bus terminus.
The attacks came only two days after the United States warned of imminent terror attacks in the East African region following the incursion of KDF troops into Somalia.
In November 2011, a number of people were injured when two grenades were hurled at the East African Pentecostal Church in Garissa town, while a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Mandera town. In November 2011, grenades were hurled at Holiday Inn in Nairobi and at a shop in Garissa town, killing three people and injuring at least 27 others.
Mohammad and Mousavi were arrested in Nairobi in June 2012 and led the police to Mombasa Golf Course where 15 kilos of RDX explosives were found. RDX is the chemical that was used in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings, which left 186 people dead.
According to bomb expert Catherine Murambi, the cyclotrimethylene trinitramine (RDX) that the respondents were allegedly found in possession of is one of the most lethal explosives used in warfare.
When detonated it can bring down a building as big as the Times Towers in Nairobi.
Other Kenyan security sources said that the two were plotting to bomb the Israeli embassy, although the issue was not discussed in court.
The chief magistrate’s court found them guilty of the offences and sentenced them to life imprisonment, which was reduced to 15 years after an appeal at the High Court. The Court of Appeal later set them free.
The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully appealed at the Supreme Court.
The Iranian nationals came to Kenya on June 12, 2012 on a tourist/business survey visa.
“Upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, they took a local flight to Mombasa and checked in at the Royal Castle Hotel where they had been booked for 10 days by the Teheran Golfers Travel Agency,” court documents indicate.
The court documents further state that: “They, however, checked out of that hotel on June 16, 2012, after five days and flew to Nairobi where they stayed at the Laico Regency for three days.
“On June 19, while on their way to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to catch a return flight back to their country, they were arrested by the Anti-Terrorist Police Unit on allegations of having come to Kenya on a terrorist mission.”
Kenya had signed an MoU with Iran to import 80,000 tonnes of crude oil a month before they were arrested.
The government cancelled the deal to avert US sanctions against countries that buy oil from Iran. After their arrest, the Iranian government in December 2016 sent two lawyers – Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahimi and Abdolhosein Gholi – to follow up on the matter, only for the anti-terrorism police to arrest them after being caught filming the Israeli embassy in Milimani.
“The Middle East imbroglio is spiralling into Somalia which Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are gradually turning into a battle ground,” said Alex Matere, a regular commentator on global issues.
Mr George Nyongesa, a political commentator, said Kenya, a US proxy, might be dragged into the conflict if it plays out for a long time.
“We might not expect a major war. What will remain is the regular pattern of proxy wars,” said Imran Khan, a security expert working in the Middle East.
Other global commentators said that Mr Soleimani was killed after he became a threat to US interests.
“What was Soleimani’s mission at the Iraqi International Airport? In whose interest was his presence in Iraq? Is it true that he might have been fighting for the cause of his people? Is it not true that his presence in Iraq was against American interests,” Mr Fwamba Fwamba, an advisor to Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, wondered.
According to the Embassy of Iran in Nairobi, Kenya and Iran are building their trade portfolio in agro-processing, textiles, leather, management and technical services, oil, gas and mining.
Iran is a large importer of Kenyan tea, horticulture products and a major exporter of oil to Kenya.
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